Dispatches from the Swamp – June 13, 2010

  • Just about everyone here is grieving for Kirby. Deb and I are having trouble and just trying to rely on each other to get through. We have hibernated for most of the weekend. Health issues made that a lot easier – I have been dealing with a cold a colitis flare. Deb was fighting a cold. We have been sleeping a lot too. Self-care has been the focus. We have indulged in many, many episodes of Law and Order SVU.I am finding that paying more attention to the dogs has really helped. Madison especially is missing him. They have been together for over 10 years. We used to describe them as an old ‘married couple.’ Madison is 6 years older than Kirby. What is really disturbing about this is that we still have 2 very old dogs: Madison at 17 and Molly at 21.
  • I am having difficulty coping with what happened with my sister. I keep reliving her coming at me, standing over me and pushing me. She is a tall woman and with her arms flailing, in a tight space, I was scared. Although I was able to get away from her with only being pushed, well and having a bottle of windex thrown at me, it has affected me deeply. Plus all the yelling, screaming and anger has upset me greatly. Thankfully I am seeing my counsellor tomorrow. I grew up like this. My sister, who is 2 years younger, was always in my charge. My mother was a single parent and in the 70s a 7-year old could look after a 5-year old. It was also my responsibility to keep the house clean and cook dinner. My sister would be almost always be the cause of the mess and would never help to tidy up. I knew that my mother worked hard and I wanted to make sure everything was right for her when she came home. During our childhood my sister attacked me more times than I care to remember. I had so many scars I never thought they would go away. She threw knives and other things at me. She was horrific. If I fought back, invariably I would be the one in trouble because I was bigger and older. Even though I thought most of this stuff was dealt with clearly it can be brought up by one incident.
  • Sawyer is an absolute joy. He is sleeping in bed with us now. He has one small difficulty: he gets cold. He then burrows under the covers trying to get warm. He hasn’t learned yet, ummm, how to sleep with people. He gets a little too close for comfort! He is so sweet and gentle. He truly is an amazing dog. He and Zoe are continuing to play together.
  • Zoe is doing great too! She is very perceptive. She knows when we need comfort and she comes to make sure that we are all ok. She is a food hound – she never met a treat she didn’t love. Like other dogs who have been starved she never seems to know where her next meal is coming from. Her fur is still coming in with different colours. Most her white hair is now interspersed with black. She still has the black swirl on her tail and the right side of her head is coming in dark beige. She has made such great progress however toilet-training remains elusive.
  • Losing a dog is so very hard. They are so completely integrated into our lives. We are with them as much as we can be, they sleep with us, they eat with us and are complete members of the family. I know that many people do not understand the relationship we have with our dogs. The other thing some don’t get is that dogs are not interchangeable. Yes, we have other dogs, however that does not mean that one takes the place of another. All of our dogs are individuals – complete with their own personalities. We are so grateful for all of our animals and the contributions they make to our lives. Even though losing them is extremely difficult, I cannot imagine my life without my dogs.

Quiet Day

We are not feeling well today and grieving deeply for Kirby. The dogs are aware of what is happening and they are being so good. I will be back tomorrow.

Rest in Peace Kirby Puckett Dog

We did not get our miracle. Kirby had kidney cancer. He was in distress and very uncomfortable. We said goodbye to him today. Rest quietly old man, we love you and you were a very, very, very good dog. You were the last of your breed: the much coveted and loved North American Brown Dog. I don’t know how we will go on without you. Your presence and your sense of humour filled our lives with joy and laughter. All of your dance: the happy dance, the mr. winky dance and the belly rub dance defined you. You were at your best when you were surrounded by your harem. We know that you will wait for us like you always did.

Kirby Puckett 2000-2011

Close call!

I just realized that it is 11:36pm and I have not blogged! Yikes!

We are now home. Kirby started to get sick again so he went back to the Vet. We are hoping it is Addison’s disease. There is a small chance it could be a kidney tumour. We will know more tomorrow. We are hoping and praying for a miracle here!

We are tired and I hope we sleep well tonight. It is Sawyer’s first night upstairs at night with everyone. I am sure it will all go fine. He is a lovely cuddler and he seeks heat. This may pose a bit of a problem with my heating pad. Should be interesting!

1 day to go…

Today has been different, not great, but different. At least with my sister here some of the pressure is taken off of me which is always a welcome break. However my sister reacts very strongly when she becomes the target. We just have tomorrow to go. I am going for a massage so that will help for sure. Keeping it short as I get crap for being on the computer too long.

Kirby is home! He is continuing to do well. Thanks to Angelina for posting pics to FB. I will post below.

The boy looking good!
Handsome, handsome boy!
Is that food coming?
Laughing boy
Happy, happy boy!

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse…

Visits with my mother have never been an easy thing. Certainly they have never been considered a good time. I thought it was bad before. It is way worse now that she has quit smoking. She has become a lunatic. Enough said. Maybe I will take up drinking.

Kirby is on the mend. He has been flushing well and will be released from the hospital tomorrow!!! Many thanks to Jessie for looking after him there and to Angelina for driving from Maple Ridge to Vancouver to bring him some cooked low protein food he would eat. Apparently ground chicken with rice and garlic is da bomb! We are so grateful that he will be home tomorrow.


June is the sixth month that I have been blogging in 2010. I signed up with NaBloPoMo back in November 2009. I tried to blog everyday that month but got way laid with a hospital stay. Thus far, I have managed everyday for 2010 except for the day when there was a blog error and it did not get posted until the next day. I know that I wrote it and so I am good with that! As is normal, NaBloPoMo has a monthly theme. The theme for June is NOW. I may actually be able to use that one!

Now, as in right now, I am in a hotel room with Deb in Salmon Arm. We are worried sick about Kirby as he has an infection that is producing toxins that have driven up his kidney numbers. He is currently at the vet’s getting IV fluids to flush out the toxins and a broad-spectrum anti-biotic where he will stay for a couple of days. Thankfully Angelina was there to take him in and get settled. Angelina’s sister works there and he loves her!! He loves Angelina too. There are some good signs: he was drinking and eating today and not vomiting. We will know more in the morning.

Now, right now I am sure, my mother is fuming because I told her Deb may decide to go back because of Kirby. My mother is not in the least bit worried about Kirby. She does not really want me to come (except that Deb is attached to me) because I cannot and, more importantly, will not do yard work. My mother has ‘uses’ for people and yard work is not one of my uses. I am good for computer problems and other life-related trouble-shooting. I can make some stuff for her freezer but not the stuff she really likes that Deb makes. I half expect an email in the next little bit telling me not to bother coming if Deb goes back. This hurts my feelings but I am not quite sure what to do about it.

But, for now, we are safely in a hotel room with Sawyer and Piper and I think we are going to sleep early. Catch you all tomorrow.


Kirby has not been feeling very well for the last little bit. He has been listless, not really hungry, moving slowly and not really ‘there.’ We are going away for a week, and in light of this fact we took him to our Vancouver Vet clinic today. The vet thinks he is anemic or he may have had a stroke. Given the fact that Kirby has had trouble with his blood before (the great platelet crisis of 2008). The vet checked his eyes, gums and reflexes all of which indicate anemia. We did a blood test so will know in a day or so.

Dispatches from Chez Shihtzu Staff – Feb 4, 2010

When I saw the gastroentrologist a couple of weeks ago we discussed why I was having so much trouble eating. She thought I might have an ulcer or some other kind of irritation in my stomach so she prescribed pariet to help it to heal and if the drugs don’t work then she would set up a scope. It has been over a week now and I am not seeing any change. In fact, I have to say it is worse. I am rarely hungry and nothing much appeals to me at all. I am taking vitamins and drinking Ensure* so I am getting some nutrition. I am still finding this a bizarre change in my world. My hope is that if I need a scope they can do both ends at the same – double the fun and only one prep!

The consequence of not being able to eat is weight loss. I am down a size in pants and some of my shirts are looking like dresses. I don’t mind the weight loss especially when I am not having to diet. At this point it is basically effort less. There have been some interesting changes. First of all many things are easier. I am not having as many difficulties walking although sometimes the colitis pain really inflames my pelvic area which then presses on my hip joints. On the days I don’t have the pain it is easier to walk. My stomach has always pressed into the steering wheel. In the Subaru it was just a little bit. Now even with my winter coat on the steering wheel no longer touches my stomach which makes driving way more fun! There are other things too but some of them would fall into the TMI category.

In other news – all the dogs seem fine. Poor Zoe had a poopy bum so I had to clip the hair away from anus and clean her up tonight. Clio is reminding me of a Pez dispenser, only in reverse. She pops up, I put food in her mouth and she goes down. Wash, rinse, repeat! Zoe continues to come out of her shell**. She is now playing really hard when we first go into the living room. I slap the leather couch and she jumps and paws at my hand to get me to do it again. She is seriously 17 kinds of funny! Kirby had a dental last week and I am pleased to confirm that Deb survived it. Kirby bounced back the very next day like nothing happened. He also seemed to enjoy his foray into canned food*** while his mouth healed. Deb had a bit of a disagreement with one of our vets about feeding raw. She (the vet) still firmly believes in her kibble and canned. We really don’t get how people can think that some mixture of bones, skin, unsellable meat and grain extruded into hard little pellets are somehow better for your dog than unprocessed meat. She actually said that dogs cannot get enough protein!!! Seriously have you ever heard anything so bizarre? What is meat if not protein? But I digress.

I got a couple of comments about unplugging from the internetz. One of my former work colleagues sent me this link: I seriously thought about doing it but I am not there yet. I could probably do it with my Twitter account as I am almost never on there. I still use it occasionally to see what the trending topics are when my Gmail is down.

I am heading into what I hope will be a nice relaxing long weekend.

*Interestingly the US government force feeds hunger striking prisoners on Guantanamo Bay Ensure. If you had asked me yesterday if I had anything in common with prisoners at Guantanamo I would have said no. You learn something new every day!

**I am pretty sure she must be done because that dog is crazy cute and very self-actualized. The other night Deb was eating cheesies in bed and Zoe got in her bag and ate a bunch before Deb noticed.

***Canned and kibble in our house is considered junk food. The dogs are love it but it is not really that good for them.

The Inmates Have Taken Over the Asylum: The Geriatric Club

A senior dog is loosely defined as being over the age of 7. If we were to apply that definition we would have 6 dogs who fit in that category. Although to see some of them in action you would have no idea!

The oldest dog in the house is Molly, who is 19, had an entire blog post dedicated to her and her antics. She has had several strokes and kind of does everything to the right. She is a force to be reckoned with and most of the other dogs are afraid of her.

My favourite pic of Mabel. It captures her confidence!
My favourite pic of Mabel. It captures her confidence!

The next oldest dog is Mabel at 17. She has also been the subject of several blog posts: here, here, and here. Mabel continues to do quite well. She is our little despot. She still sleeps most of the time in the laundry room – entirely her choice. She has many beds to choose from and she does rotate through them all. Lately we have had to evict her from the laundry room for short periods of time so that Tucker can eat there and she gets seriously pissed off. She will immediately voice her displeasure and go and pee on the floor even if she has just been outside. She continues to bark to go out, come in and eat. Her daily ‘constitutionals’ around the yard are back and she can successfully find her way back to the door. What is really funny is that Mabel doesn’t know when the door is open. Sometimes we don’t close it and sure enough, when she is ready to come in she will bark in front of the open door. Mabel is a little deaf, a little blind and a whole lot stubborn!

Madison with Molly and Clio
Madison with Molly and Clio

Madison is our next oldest dog and she is 15. We adopted her from the Animal Rescue Foundation about 10 years ago. Madison often takes the role of mother to the little dogs no matter how old. She can often be seen cleaning them especially the pug. Madison has much in common with Eeyore. She is sure that no one loves her and everyone hates her. She greets new visitors with the hope that maybe, just maybe, they will really love her! Madison is a loved and cherished member of our family. Unfortunately some dogs are never able to overcome their pasts. Madison went through several homes in her first five years of life. She became somewhat aggressive after being tormented by a 12 year old boy. We were the perfect family for Madison because there were no men in our household. Over the years, Madison has mostly been desensitized to men and can enjoy their company. Young boys are still problematic – she is unpredictable and can be aggressive. Luckily she has never bitten a child and we are highly vigilant. Many people (see here and here) feel it is just fine to re-home a dog and that it really does not affect them. For many dogs, instability in their ‘pack’ cause irreparable damage that the dog may never overcome.

Laughing Tucker
Laughing Tucker

Tucker is a foster dog from SAINTS. He is 15 years old and spent almost all of his life in a pen. He is a very good dog. There are serious consequences for a dog who spends his entire life, by himself, in a pen. He was never socialized with other dogs. For him this means that he has never learned how to be with other dogs or what it means to be a dog. He is now slowly learning, at 15, how to interact with other members of canine society. He is realizing that humping everyone is not the best strategy. He never learned to hold his bladder. If you live in a pen rather than a house toilet training is not a priority. It means that Tucker is incontinent. He may have been incontinent at 15 anyway but we will never know. Tucker has an incredible need to be touched and loved. After 15 years there are not enough people or enough hours in enough days to make up for what he has lost. It is very sad. This insatiable need for affection contributes to Tucker’s anxiety. He is always concerned that he is going to miss something and he is always on alert. Tucker is also mostly deaf. As a result he devises strategies to know if the humans he has now fallen in love with move. He will lie so that he is touching my chair so that I cannot possibly get up without him knowing. Another consequence (and one that is simultaneously amusing and disgusting) of his lack of socialization is that Tucker never really came into contact with female dogs. Enter our little hussy, Piper the pug. On several occasions now I have seen Piper laid out, on her back, like Miss September and Tucker enthusiastically ‘cleaning’ her. That is all I will say on the subject.


Kirby is our next oldest dog. He is 10 and he also came from ARF. Kirby was painfully shy when he came to us as a foster dog. He had this unique ability to blend in with his surroundings and stay perfectly still making it very difficult to find him. Although, who, in their right minds, takes a brand new dog to the park and lets him offleash? Well, we did. It was dumb. It took us a long time to find him that first day and he was right by us. Kirby was so timid he was almost euthanized at the vet’s office where he was dumped. He was saved by a very eager and talented vet student who had done his neuter. She could not handle the fact that he was about to be put down and she contacted ARF. It was clear immediately, to Deb anyway, that he was not going anywhere once he had arrived. Almost 10 years later and he is a treasured member of our family.

Mackenzie smiling.
Mackenzie smiling.

Mackenzie is about 8 years old and she has lived with us for all but about 4 months of her life. She started her life being tied up in a yard and left to the elements and the loud noises. This has affected her greatly. She is very scared by thunder storms and fireworks have made her seizure from anxiety. She was also kicked to maker her aggressive and into a watch dog. They succeeded on the aggressive part for sure. She was human aggressive when we got her and has remained dog aggressive. Mackenzie has been the focus of a great deal of soul searching and agonizing about quality of life. She lives in a multi-dog household and this means that she must be separated from everyone else as her aggression, while predictable, is severe. Mackenzie spends a lot of her time in Deb’s office. She gets lots of exercise and for the most part seems to have a good quality of life.

What is clear from our seniors is that there are real and palpable consequences to how dogs are treated. Dogs who spend their lives on the ends of ropes or chains outside become fearful and unpredictable. Dogs are pack animals and need to be with their people. They are social animals who need to learn to the cues from both other dogs and humans if they are to navigate their way in society successfully. Having the pleasure of having a dog in your life comes with serious responsibility. Dogs can be expected to live between 10 and 20 years and if you are getting a dog you need to be aware. Dogs require good quality food and regular vet care. Please if you are thinking of getting a dog make sure that you do your research into breed characteristics and learn something about training. Many dogs lose their homes because their people did not research the breed adequately. If you get a Border Collie you need to know that have to work or they will become destructive. Pugs were bred to be companion dogs – they need to be with their people. Northern breeds have high prey drive. While not all dogs of all breeds will display all of the breed characteristics it is good to at least be aware of the potential. One last request, if you are thinking of getting a dog please check out your local shelters, rescues and pounds. Please don’t support a puppy mill.

Edited to add: I just saw this post from Turtle Gardens with some more discussion about consequences for dogs brought on by human failures. Excellent post.