Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I am being stared at’ Edition

  • First, an update on Madison. She has gone from not weight-bearing on her right rear leg yesterday to going down the stairs by herself this morning. She is able to walk the length of the house now without stopping to lay down and rest on the way. To say that we are relieved would be an understatement. We lost 4 dogs last year and we are not ready to lose Madison. Besides, clearly Madison is not ready. Even when she was clearly in agony, she so desperately wanted to be with us that she would get up and try to come over.
  • Shihtzus have an amazing capacity to be singularly focused on what they want. Take Mabel, that dog once stood in front of the stove barking at a ham for over 90 minutes. Zoe has been staring at me for over an hour, without a break. She occasionally would paw my stomach, which was agony due to the cellulitis. I have to say that I really admire that level of perseverance. It seems to be a standard breed characteristic.
  • The best part of hiring staff is when you interview someone and you know, in the first 5 minutes that you have found the right person. What is even better is when the person you are interviewing with feels exactly the same way.

Our Mabel-Mae

mabel in fleece
mabel in fleece

Mabel came to us from SAINTS in February of 2007. You can read some of her history here from the SAINTS blog. Mabel came to our house to die. She was urinating blood and she had a big cancer tumour on her neck. As soon as she arrived she commandeered the laundry room as her domain. It was quiet and she could sleep and be out of the way of the thundering herds in our house. She quickly made her presence known which is not easy in a house with 7 other dogs. We asked nothing of Mabel and gave her everything she wanted. She quickly made her food preferences known. She liked the raw food we fed the other dogs but she had a real penchant for chicken and Cesar dog food. One day we gave her ham – she was fairly sure that it was heaven on earth. The next time we cooked a ham she barked at the stove for 90 minutes straight while it boiled. She could smell it and she wanted it!

Mabel lived life on her own terms. She preferred to be dirty and smelly and would turn into a Tazmanian Devil whenever Deb bathed her. She often connected but I don’t think she ever drew blood but it was not for lack of trying.

After several months at our house Mabel developed a small tumour on her leg. We took her to the vet and had it treated. In the beginning they thought it was a lick granuloma but it never healed. At the same time the vet checked her teeth and she needed a dental. She seemed healthy enough so we opted to have blood work done and if all was ok we would proceed with the dental. Her blood work was not only ok, her liver and kidney function had improved. So, we went ahead with the dental and had the tumour removed. She came through it like a trooper!

She enjoyed two summers at our house. She would do her daily constitutional around the yard and then come back in. We had a couple of scares like when she became quite disorientated while on antibiotics for her leg but she improved again.

Mabel lived for food. She ate 4 or more times a day usually within a time period of four hours. Deb would feed her and Mabel would bark an hour later and Deb would swear and feed her again not believing that a little dog could eat so much. I found it quite amusing that Deb would attempt to ‘reason’ with Mabel. She would say things like: “You just ate! You can’t be hungry again” and Mabel would continue to bark. Then my favourite line was: “If you stop barking I can feed you more quickly” and Mabel would bark louder. She simply did not care. We were her slaves – she knew it and never let us forget it.

Rest easy Miz Mabel-Mae. You were a force to be reckoned with and you were loved.

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

I am Mabel and I Approve this Message

As all the regular readers will know, Mabel is our 17 year old shihtzu who lives in the laundry room (her choice) and who sleeps most of time. When she is awake she is generally barking for one of two things: she wants out or she wants food. Usually in that order and Lord help you if you are not quick enough to please her Highness. Lately Deb has taken to trying to reason with her to get her to stop barking. She thinks it is working, I am not so sure. My strategy with our Dear Despot is to respond quickly. When she starts I let her out, get her food ready, let her back in and give her the food, hopefully without a bark.

Now, on to the food. Whenever you give Mabel food she looks at it, looks at you and then goes back to it. The look seems to be saying: “couldn’t you do better than this?” or “the service here really sucks” or “I had this an hour a go couldn’t you have gone shopping.” You get the idea, she is a despot with high standards. Now, keep in mind this dog is not eating old roy. She is eating freshly cooked chicken, ground beef, her beloved ‘Cesar’ (although we balk at this, life without Cesar for Mabel is way too difficult for us). She loves her chicken and beef and adores her Cesar.

Recently Deb made a trip to Surrey Meat Packers to check out what they had as the prices seemed reasonable. Yesterday she got her first taste of their ground chicken with bone and she loved it. Later Deb gave her some Cesar because we didn’t have any more thawed and she was not impressed. She didn’t even eat it all!

This morning she was up early barking, which is not normal for her Highness – she usually sleeps until at least the crack of 4 pm. I tried to let her out – she wouldn’t go. I went and got her some food. Lucky for me there was ground chicken with bone thawed so I gave her some. I put it on the floor and she raced over to it and didn’t even give me a condescending look. I think Mabel likes the new food…

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.

Why People Suck…

So, we had a huge thunder and lightening storm last night. Mackenzie, one of our dogs, is deathly afraid of loud noises, espeically thunder and fireworks. She once had a seizure she was so afraid. After that happened we got her some acevet which is a tranquilizer. It works fairly well as long as you get it into her quickly enough. Well last night the storm started at around 3 am and she was already too upset. Deb gave her 2 acevet anyway and put a tight t-shirt on her. Tight t-shirts help afraid dogs feel more secure. You might wonder why she is like this and this is where the title comes in. Kenzie was left outside, on a rope, with a prong digging into her neck for the first 4 months of her life. She was outside for the storms, the fireworks and whatever else went on. She was kicked to make her aggressive. While she has come a long way we do think there is something wrong with her brain. She is very aggressive towards new dogs. We used to think it was something that happened when she snapped except now she is starting to go out of her way to nail dogs. She has to be kept separate from other dogs for everyone’s safety.

The other reason people suck is that they starve dogs. Kenzie was definitely starved. Tucker has also been starved – he is quite skinny and is always looking for food. Clio was also starved as was Mabel. A starved dog never forgets what it was like to be hungry. They are always looking for food. It is a fine balance to make sure they get what they need to eat without making themselves sick. Meals are scheduled here and there are lots and lots of treats the rest of the time.

One thing we guarantee every dog who comes here – they will never again know hunger, abuse or lonliness. They will have a soft bed to sleep on and they will be well looked after. We ask for nor needing anything from them.

We are ecstatic!

We just checked Mabel’s leg and it is looking so much better! It is not a goopy mess anymore. The fur seems to be growing in around it and it is not bleeding any more. The lump is still there and she is still 17 years old but we will take any progress we can get. Oh and she ate 3 times between 11 am and 7 pm! Way to go Miss Mabel.

The interesting thing about having senior dogs around is that every day is a gift. You don’t take them for granted because you don’t know how long they are going to be with you. Dogs like Mabel, who have not known much kindness in their lives, seem to know and appreciate a soft touch. Deb was combing her today and her eyes were closing she was enjoying it so much. Mabel is not a dog who asks for much besides going outside and eating. When she asks for these things there is no doubt about what she wants and she makes it clear she isn’t going to wait. I am so happy that she feeling better after the scare we had at the beginning of the month that it is joyful when she barks and I seeing what she needs is a pleasure. In these moments she is so full of life and herself.

If you have room in your home and your heart think about adopting a senior dog. Yes, there can be issues (like incontinence) or giving meds or going to the vets and yes they may not live all that long but it is so worth it! I can tell you that they will live much longer in your home than they will in an animal shelter. The rewards are too many to list. Just know that you will be helping an animal finish out its days in comfort and peace and you will reap the rewards. check out SAINTS or your local shelter for a senior animal who needs you today.

We are off

Deb and I are off to Calgary (and Radium) for the next couple of days. We will be back on Friday.

A quick update on Mabel – she seems to have returned to her normal, demanding self. We are so pleased to hear her barking and demanding food again! She ate 3 times yesterday. It appears her lack of appetite for a couple of days had to do with the medication she was on.

Extreme begging and other dog stories

So, with 9 dogs in our household we have become experts at the beg. They all have it down to a science. The sound of cutlery on china gets everyone’s attention and they all gather around. Sometimes it is a bit overwhelming for the claustrophobics among us. Other times I half expect to hear the theme music to Jaws start to play. We have become accustomed to taking more food than we want simply so we can share with the dogs. Now, everyone here has a different way of doling out the treats. Sometimes it is done by age, or rank in the pack but usually it is by favourites. Yes, we are not perfect, we have favourites. Some dogs, like Mabel, do not have to gather around her treats are brought to her while she lays in her bed covered up by fleece.

mabel in fleece

Now, on to extreme begging. Mabel also has this down to a science. When she wants food, she stands in the kitchen, barks, opens her mouth, barks, opens her mouth until someone puts something in it. It is very effective:
Mabel gearing up to bark for chicken

Having had success, here is Mabel eating her chicken:

Mabel eating chicken

Different dogs employ different strategies. Piper relies on her big brown eyes to get what she wants. She uses all of her pug wiles all the time to get her share:

Please Mama...
I am so very sad...sigh...
Clio has a little bit of a challenge because she is blind. She can smell the food she just has a hard time finding it sometimes.

Not to be outdone, Sienna has to get in there too:

Now on to some random pictures of the crew. This is Madison laying with Clio and Mollie. Madison is one of the most photogenic dogs we have:

This is MacKenzie at the dikes:

Kiefer at the dikes:

Here is Piper in the classic ‘pug slouch:’

Not to be left out – here is where I found Bella this morning:

Worried about Mabel

So Mabel has not really been eating much since she went on Baytril for her leg infection and metacam to reduce the inflammation. We are not really sure why she does not want to eat. It could be that her stomach is upset from the medication. She does not want to take anything from us as she thinks it has a pill in it. She did bark last night to be let out and for some food. She ate about a third of it. I hope her appetite is improving as she cannot afford to lose any weight.

Edited to add: she just ate 2 pieces of bacon!!! She actually took it from me and did not seem to worried about there being a pill in it.

Things I can post about…

Well, there is lots going on in my life right now but I can’t post about it – at least not yet.

So, what is there to talk about? Well, music for one thing. I have discovered some really good new music – much by accident. I was listening to the CBC yesterday on my way home from the grocery store because there was nothing to eat in this house (even though the cupboards are overflowing…but that is another story) and Stephen Quinn played a song by Dustin Bentall. I thought I would hate it…but I loved it! He played Crash Hard. I had to buy it from iTunes immediately. I don’t know about the rest of the CD but if this is the kind of music he is putting out at 22 he has a bright, bright future ahead of him. I also downloaded Mercy by Duffy. This song has been going through my head since I saw her on Ellen. (Yes, I have to admit it, since I have been off sick I have been watching Ellen and much to the chagrin of Deb and Angelina she has exposed me to music they would prefer I did not listen too…but that is for another blog). You can see Duffy’s video for Mercy here.

What else – how about some dog updates. Piper seems to have calmed down and she is no longer playing ‘bowling for blind dogs.’ Keifer has discovered the garbage can again – which sucks. However he has been doing really well learning to ‘come’ at the park when there are distractions around. He really is quite smart and learns quickly. Much to Deb’s surprise he showed some interest in fetching a ball the other day. Mabel’s leg is looking much better with the antibiotics. She is being a very good girl and keeping it clean while not overdoing it. However she is way too smart for us. We are having to give her antibiotics and she is spitting them out and pulling them out of everything we put them in. Thankfully we only have 4 more days.

We are going to visit my mother for a couple of days next week. I am going to be installing a new computer for her at Radium. She is still running a Win 98SE machine and it is not meeting her needs anymore. I always think these will go relatively easy. I hope that is the case. My worst fear is dealing with setting up her internet connection with Telus. They have assured me that we do not need a new disk for Vista but I remain skeptical.

Oh, I caught the tail end of the Scripps Spelling Bee yesterday. All I can say is holy shit those kids are smart. I have an excellent vocabulary and a Masters degree and I had not heard of 98% of the words those kids were spelling. Totally blew me away. Congratulations to Sameer Mishra!!!