Day 9

We have a routine here at The Swamp. Sawyer was born with a congenital liver shunt that means the enzymes he needs to digest his food don’t really make it into his belly. Everyday he has to have a pill. Sawyer is a notoriously picky eater. He rarely will take treats and if there is a pill in one he will be forever suspicious so there is no hiding them. We tried a pill popper and that didn’t work.

So, we had to resort to shoving it down his throat. This is my job. Everyday we do the ‘good boy’ routine. I go around the house asking if we have a ‘good boy’. Sawyer dances around and gets all excited (so do the other dogs, especially Ozzy) then all of a sudden I ‘see’ him and he goes nuts. Then I get him to sit or hop up on the couch or something, pry his mouth open and stick the pill down this throat and the part resumes with wild abandon. Sometimes he will take a treat chaser but more of the time he doesn’t. In essence, I have trained him to come to me, to sit, have his mouth opened and a pill shoved down his throat.

Never, ever discount the power of the party when dealing with dogs. This selfie was taken right after his pill.



Dispatches from The Swamp – the ‘Stevie Ray is growing up’ edition

Stevie Ray
Stevie Ray


Stevie Ray is now 5 months old. This is a very important milestone as her first heat is expected in a month. Except Stevie Ray will not be allowed to have a heat as we will have her spayed a few months ahead of time. Besides the obvious reason for doing this, which is birth control, there are many health and behavioral benefits for the dog. Here are some of the benefits:

  1. There are way too many unwanted animals in the world. And unless you really know what you are doing you should not be breeding your dog.
  2. Your female dog never has a(nother) heat. Female dogs in heat are a major pain in the ass. They bleed all over the house. You have to ensure that she does not come into contact with intact male dogs. Even if a neutered dog breeds her, she can have a false pregnancy. I have seen it happen.[1]
  3. The risk of mammary cancer is almost zero if a dog is spayed before her first heat. Spaying is an investment in the long-term health of your female dog.
  4. A dog who has been spayed cannot develop pyometra – which is an infection of the uterus that requires and immediate spay. It can be a very serious condition. My sister lost one of her bull mastiffs to pyometra after spending $10,000 to try to save her.
  5. Carrying and birthing puppies can cause injuries and stress to a dog. Dogs can die giving birth.
  6. Once a female goes into heat her desire to roam increases. If she never has a heat then this behavior is less likely to develop.



Spaying dogs young means they recover very quickly. Spay techniques have improved so much that the incision is often very tiny. I expect Stevie Ray will be quiet and need rest for the first 24 hours. After that, we will try to limit her activity for a week or so. Thankfully she loves her bed in her x-pen so it won’t be too hard to convince her to spend some time there with a chewie.


Please spay and neuter your dogs; it’s the right thing to do.


[1] Not to one of my dogs!

Dispatches from The Swamp – the ‘random’ edition


Jesse and Stevie Ray laying together.
Jesse and Stevie Ray laying together.

I had some blood work done yesterday. I am 2 points away from being anemic (explains my fatigue) and my C Reactive Protein has quadrupled since June. C Reactive Protein is the measure of inflammation in the body. It is a relief to know that there really is something more going on than normal.

It has been so interesting watching Stevie Ray develop. The other day she discovered her hackles and her big dog bark when she hears a noise that startles her. I have also noticed that she has become more coordinated.[1] Her default play position is on the ground, usually on her back playing bitey face. This morning she actually play hopped backwards which is something completely new for her. I was impressed! She also seems much more able to run in more coordinated fashion. It is so much watching her grow up and develop – it is not something we get to do very often.


[1] She is seriously an uncoordinated puppy! Probably due to her breed.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘Stevie Ray’ edition


One of the first pics of baby Stevie Ray
One of the first pics of baby Stevie Ray

In August this year we welcomed Stevie Ray into our canine family. After much thought and discussion we decide to get an English bulldog puppy. We found a reputable breeder and picked out our puppy. We went to visit her 3 times between the time she was born and when she came home with us. She has been an amazing puppy!


Stevie from the back. She kind of resembles a triangle.
Stevie from the back. She kind of resembles a triangle.
I am bulldog!
I am bulldog!


She adjusted to life at The Swamp very well. She only cried the first night she was here and then after that she has been excellent at night. In the beginning the only dog who tolerated her was Grace. This made life a little difficult for Grace, as Stevie wouldn’t leave her alone. Eventually Sawyer started to play with her and they have been best buds ever since. Jesse is not the baby’s biggest fan. She is determined that he is going to love her and she hangs with him as much as she can.

I love you Jesse!
I love you Jesse!


As puppies go, English bulldogs are not that difficult. They are not high drive, which really makes a difference. Stevie is quite content with several rounds of bitey face with Sawyer, stealing balls from Jesse when we play fetch every day. She does look very proud of herself strutting around with balls in her mouth!

Another photo of Stevie's back. She is a little bigger here!
Another photo of Stevie’s back. She is a little bigger here!
Stacked bulldog!
Stacked bulldog!


Feeding dogs


Here at The Swamp, we have been feeding raw long before there ever was a Swamp in our lives! When we first started we tried to make our own with ground beef, veggies and bone dust. It was a huge amount of work and very little variety. We then heard about a company that was making raw and we started buying from them. Over time the quality decreased to the point that the dogs wouldn’t even look at it let alone eat it. At that point we decided that we would feed raw meaty bones (RMBs) exclusively. At least doing this we knew the dogs’ food was human grade. We found a great store in East Van that stocked all sorts of different types of meat. Beef lung, pig snouts and rabbit could be found there. Once we moved from East Van it became harder to source human-grade RMBs that didn’t break the bank.

Last week we finally made it out to Surrey Meat Packers. We intended to strictly buy RMBs however, we were blown away by the quality of their ground raw. It looked fabulous and nothing like the brown/grey slurry we had seen before. We bought chicken, lamb and beef ground. We didn’t get any with veg as our dogs get lots from us when we eat. We debated the wisdom of buying all this ground raw without making sure the dogs would eat it first.

A week later and we (and the dogs) couldn’t be happier. Everyone has embraced the new food. Some of it is a little different, like the green tripe, but most of them ate that yesterday without problem. We still supplement with some RMBs as it is important for the dogs to have to use their minds and jaws to eat their food. The best part is that Stevie Ray is being exposed to so many different foods and she is embracing all of them!

If you feed raw, Surrey Meat Packers (with a location in Burnaby as well) is an excellent source for all sorts of great meat for your dogs.

Disclosure: I have received nothing from Surrey Meat Packers for this blog. I like the products.

Jesse update: When will the vets learn?

Jesse went to the vet this week as part of our annual get all the dogs to vet month that started in September. I want to flash back to a little less than 18 months when Jesse came to live with us. His back legs were in bad shape due to botched cruciate ligament surgery, he had moderate kidney disease and he was in pain. He was unable to walk very well as he little to no muscle mass in his back legs. There was a huge question mark on whether he would even be able to live pain free even on tramadol and metacam. In short he was a mess with a poor prognosis.

Over the past year and a half we have successfully transitioned Jesse to raw from his beloved kibble and canned. He is a great raw eater once he knew what to do with it. We spent time building his muscle mass and making sure he wasn’t in pain. We made sure he didn’t over play and need metacam very often, as it is hard on the kidneys.

When he saw his regular vet the other day she could not believe the transformation. He was much calmer in the office. She said his legs looked great and that he had gained just the right amount of weight. He had blood work done to see how he was faring with his kidney disease. When the vet called with the results it turns out that his kidney numbers had improved significantly as in, almost to the high end of normal. I asked the vet who called[1] what would cause his numbers to reverse so much. He said a low protein diet and good hydration could help. I told him he was eating a diet of raw meaty bones. His only comment was that we should add more vegetables.

Here is the thing, vets, as we know, get precious little nutrition education. They seem to labour under the delusion that raw meat is high in protein. Raw meat is actually 70% water. Jess doesn’t need more vegetable. Clearly what he is eating is healing and nourishing his body in all the right ways. He does not need a special lower protein diet and he certainly does not need more veg in his diet.

[1] We got a multi-vet practice.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘dog updates part 2’ edition

Continuing on with dog updates!


Kiefer continues to be, well, Kiefer. Everything is half an hour later[1] and given that he is a Newfoundland he may come by this honestly. We will let everyone out and back in and then settle in to our chairs. Usually about 20 minutes he will bark to go out. Never mind that he was in the room when everyone went out and he didn’t bother. We really should just make him go out but he seems to be going deaf so getting his attention has become a bit difficult. Even if we send him out with everyone else he won’t come in. And, like clockwork, he will bark to come back in 20 minutes later. He also has an amazing skill to lie in the narrow passageways in our house like between Deb’s chair and the bar. I have become an expert at stepping over and going around Kiefer. Lucky for him he is a beautiful boy with a kind personality. He also had blood work done as a baseline a month ago and he too is very healthy.



Sawyer in the sun this morning
Sawyer in the sun this morning

If there is a patch of sunshine in our house you can bet that Sawyer will be in it. He is heat seeking little missile. He has his own[2] heated blanket on the couch that he uses throughout the year. He likes to get under it and snooze. He continues to make Deb crazy with his eating antics. He does not eat like a normal dog. He seems to like ‘used’ food so Deb spends her time trying to get half-chewed chicken legs away from Zoe so she can give them to Sawyer. Most of our dogs would kill for a meal of hamburger and rice, not Sawyer. Deb even makes him a ‘special’ bowl of mostly meat as she insists he doesn’t like the rice. She cuts his meat up into little pieces because she is sure he doesn’t like big pieces.[3] She will even cut up her food and deliver it to him while he is under the blanket and then he turns it down. Sawyer adores Stevie Ray and the feeling is mutual. They like to play bitey-face for hours at a time.

Sawyer with Jesse
Sawyer with Jesse


We have been working hard on reducing Gracie’s anxiety. She had a rough life up until she went to SAINTS and then came here. She still chews on herself although she is doing it less now. The chewing seems to escalate right after she has been groomed. I am not sure if it is because of the shampoo or something irritating her skin or if it is increased stress because she went to the groomers. She is a cuddle-bug who is most happy when she is on her back in Deb’s arms. Deb literally spends hours holding Grace and rubbing her belly all to reassure her that we are not going anywhere. Hopefully, one day, she will realize she is home and safe and nothing bad is going to happen to her anymore.


Zoe remains the reigning matriarch of the house. At 14 years old she does not seem to be slowing down at all. She still runs down the stairs so fast her tail goes in circles. She had blood work done and is still doing well for a dog who has been on Lasix for 18 months. Her lungs and heart are also still doing very well. She continues to rule over everyone in the house. Zoe is still the master of getting what she wants. She has mastered her begging skills to ensure that she gets the largest portion of my food whenever I eat something. Hell, she even barks at me when I don’t have something just in case I do. We adore our old Shih Tzu and we are thankful to Turtle Gardens for bringing her into our lives four years ago.


[1] Unless it is time to eat in which case he is often half a day early!

[2] Well, it used to be mine.

[3] Even though I have given him a big piece to eat when she wasn’t home and he did just fine with it.

Dispatches from The Swamp – the ‘little of this, a little of that’ edition

  • This week has been long and difficult. It relates back to the bullying/mobbing I went through in 2010/11. It is clear that I am still suffering the effects of PTSD. It makes me anxious and defensive. I am always on guard for an attack or snide remarks. There were a few of those yesterday but for the most part it was ok. I am really trying hard to understand that what motivates people to be mean to me has nothing to do with me and is much more a reflection of who they are and what is going on for them. I took the high road yesterday and chose to ignore the crap.
  • I am sure by now everyone has heard that cats are serial killers or mass murderers. Cats are predators who have always hunted. While cats may kill a large number of birds and rodents, larger predators like coyotes routinely kill cats. So many cats go missing if their families let them outside. The solution to all of this is for people to keep their cats indoors thereby keeping everyone safe.
  • And another rant – This week we have heard that we are not going to have enough university graduates to fill jobs in the next 7 years. What really got me was all the whining and sniveling from unemployed social sciences graduates about not getting a job and that it is the university’s responsibility to provide more focused career counselling and resume writing. Seriously people? You have completed a 4-year degree and you can’t figure out how to develop a resume? If you are going to a degree in sociology, anthropology, history or any other number of subjects you are not likely to work in the field you studied unless you are going to get a doctorate degree and stay in academia. I have a Master of Arts degree in history. It has been my job to sell my skills to potential employers. I need to convince them that they need someone who has critical thinking skills, analytical skills and that I can learn their business quickly.
  • I love Jesse. He is the sweetest dog ever! When I come home after a long day at work he is so happy to see me. His tail is going like crazy and he is talking to me loudly. Once he calms down he comes in for a head scratch. Then he presses his head into my legs as he gets his scritches. He has learned to give a ‘high-5’ with bow paws. He is so sweet!
  • We have turned a corner with Gracie. She is no longer as anxious as she used to be. We believe she did not receive very much attention during her life. She seemed so desperate for human attention. She still needs to be very close to her people. She has stopped obsessively chewing on herself. Her toilet training has also improved markedly over the last couple of weeks. She is a very happy girl who is always ready to play or relax for a long cuddle!
  • Something really great happened to me at work this week. One of our volunteers came out to me. She said she had never seen a lesbian who was out, with a partner and happy. Seeing open and me being out gave her assurance that she too could be honest about whom she is and come out. She made my day in so many ways. It was nice to know that my beliefs around being a role model for youth are realistic. We really can be part of the solution just by being visible.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘re-entry is hard’ edition

I always find going back to work after the Christmas holidays very difficult. It is just not long enough. Plus there is the spectre of a brand new year ahead that begins with my least favourite month of the year. It always seems to me that January is one long-ass month of misery. In no particular order here are updates from The Swamp:

  • I had a couple of other observations about our trip to Calgary. I was stunned to find out that I had to give personal information in order to purchase gravol at a pharmacy. Apparently they want to keep track of who is purchasing it. Is there a gravol intervention staged if one tries to buy too much?
  • Rental car companies do not put snow tires on their cars in Calgary. Seriously people, WTF is that about? It makes the fact that I didn’t get stuck or seriously injure us in a crash all the more shocking. I seriously have not lost my winter/snow driving skills.
  • We took in a new senior dog. She is a 16-year old Shih Tzu. She is a great dog. She sleeps a lot but when she is awake she is very engaged and charming. She certainly lets us know, in no uncertain terms when she is not happy with the state of her world. She loves food and snuggling. She has been getting around a lot better since we started her back on metacam. She is able to navigate our stairs in and out. She can go up the stairs to the bedroom but sometimes she just prefers to be carried and we oblige her. She is getting along with the other dogs and seems to have adjusted ok to such a big change. It is always tragic seniors lose their homes because their people have to go into care homes. Tosh was extremely well socialized and is very resilient. She set a land-speed record in terms of how quickly she settled into The Swamp.
Tosh and Piper
Tosh and Piper
  • Jesse is continuing to evolve. He is looking really good and has gained some muscle mass in his back legs. Now his ‘princess’ behaviours are emerging. He is one loud and vocal dog for sure. If he wants something he whines and carries on like he is going to die. The other day Deb heard him screaming downstairs and asked me if he was in distress or if we were playing. We were playing. He definitely loves the sound of his own voice!
  • He and Kiefer are battling out to see who can be the lowest dog in status in the house. Tosh and Zoe are really good at kicking them out of their big dog beds and making them sleep in the small ones. It really is quite hysterical to see those two trying to contort themselves into the much smaller space. Meanwhile, Tosh and Zoe are spread out on the big beds looking quite contented.
  • The new Port Mann Bridge has not gotten off to a good start. There were ice bombs after a storm and it turned into a skating rink when the temperatures dipped down below zero the other morning. Even though it has had problems it has already been successful in reducing congestion on Highway 1. This is a great boon to commuters and has already reduced my commute time. The bigger benefit though is to the economy. As a port city Vancouver has very high levels of truck traffic. Making it easier for them to move goods in and out of Vancouver. Lower levels of congestion will also be good for the environment.