Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘hello blog, I have missed you’ edition


It seems like life took over in July and things happened. Here are the updates:


  • Ruby went missing from the dikes in Maple Ridge on July 18th. We believe a wild animal took her as there has literally been no sign of her at all. We had Al from PetSearchers come with his bloodhound and the dog could not pick up her scent. Deb searched frantically for hours the day she went missing. She was in the water up to her chest and the rocks chewed her feet up. I think it will take months for them to heal. Al also waded the river and could not find any sign of her. We know of about 15 people who came down the next day to look for her. The brush down there is so heavy an animal could have been completely camouflaged and grab her. She is old and deaf and wouldn’t have heard anything coming. We have not given up. I am still checking the SPCA and Craigslist.
  • The only good thing that came out of Ruby going missing was that we helped to reunite another dog with its people. We were told about a dirty Shih Tzu at a mill. Deb went to look and discovered it was an apricot poodle. I posted an ad on Craigslist and the dog’s owners responded. It was their dog and they have since been reunited. One thing I learned through all of this is that most people cannot tell the difference between breeds.
  • My mother came to visit last weekend. It is interesting that when she is around us she seems to become helpless. I forgot to set up her coffee one morning and instead of making a pot herself she heated up the coffee from the day before. We have exactly the same coffee maker so it is not like she didn’t know how to do it. If something had to be put in the garbage she would either give it to one of us or put it on the lid of the can.
  • The other thing that struck me while my mother was here is her obsession with smoking. She spent most of her time outside, with her oxygen on, smoking and puffing ventolin. We went to the Fish House for dinner[1], as she loves Stanley Park. We were enjoying a lovely drive through the park and she kept asking when we were going to stop so she could have a cigarette. I was stressed as I had no idea how to get to the Fish House[2] and we were late for our reservation. Finally, I said to her: “I will not make you go into the restaurant for dinner without having a cigarette.’ Then, as soon as she was done eating she wanted to go. No chance for anyone to linger after dinner and maybe have dessert because she had to smoke. She has lost even more weight and if she gets pneumonia I think that will be the end.
  • Today, I am feeling so grateful for the dogs we have had in our lives. They have loved us unconditionally and taught us so much.

[1] It was absolutely horrible.

[2] I eventually had to go down a one-way street the wrong way.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘Tuber Edition’

  • Ruby (aka Tuber)[1] is doing so much better. Some of you may remember the post I wrote a couple of months ago: Fixing Ruby. Ruby had never known that human beings could give her good things in life. She has come so far. Gone is the sad little dog who wanted to hide in her crate all the time.[2] We now have a bright-eyed[3] confident little dog. Her tail is up and her ears almost stick straight out from her body. She loves life. She is following in the tracks of many dogs at The Swamp who try to kill the humans by sticking so close to their feet that we trip over them. She goes to the park and enjoys herself immensely. I would regale you with pictures but she hates the camera.
  • My health has really improved lately. Sticking to a routine has really helped my fatigue levels. I no longer sleep in on weekends. I used to sleep 12+ hours on the weekend just to be able to work all week. This morning I was awake and up at 8:30, which is early for me. Clearly all of the things I have been doing to look after myself have worked. Getting back in touch with the things that make me happy and contented was a good plan. Luckily, I will likely never run out of things to crochet for people. I have started on a new Realta afghan for my best friend Joe. I am making it queen size, which means it is roughly 4 times the size of the last one.
  • Piper has lost 2 pounds! This is ½ of the weight she needed to lose according to the vet who did her soft-palate resection last year. Her breathing is so much better even in this heat.
  • The rest of the dogs are doing well. Ruby and Zoe are hardly coughing at all now on their Lasix. Kiefer seems to surviving the heat ok. He likes to lay on the cool tile by the front door or in the living room in the shade. If it gets much warmer I will have to set up the air conditioner in the living room for him. Sawyer is still cold. He is always looking for a blanket to go under.

[1] Tuber as in potato. She is about as bright as one. But she is sweet, so very, very sweet!

[2] She still won’t sleep anywhere unless it is a dog bed.

[3] But very deaf …

Dispatches from the Swamp the ‘Maple Ridge Extra Foods Union Tribute’ edition

  • Here at The Swamp, we were spoiled by an Extra Foods really close to our house. Prices there are about 20% cheaper than other grocery stores. Plus we could use our President Choice MasterCards and get serious points on every thing we bought. Factor in ‘meat markdown Mondays’ and it was a raw-feeders paradise. Then the company refused to negotiate with its workers and they went on strike in December of 2008. Those workers, mostly women, have been picketing for 3 ½ years. Through summer, winter’s cold and driving rain and snow they stayed there, in the parking lot. Finally, they banded together with some other stores and they were able to win a small increase that was retroactive to 2004, a far better deal than the almost 50% wage cut being demanded by the employer. While we are hugely happy the store has re-opened, it is the seniors who live all around it who are the most relieved. They can go back to walking to get their groceries and still stay within their budgets. It was really nice to go in their yesterday and congratulate them on their victory.
  • We had a little scare this week with Zoe. We took her to the vet because she has a slight cough. Upon exam, the vet said she needed a dental, which was fine. She listened to her heart and lungs and said everything sounded fine. We decided to do x-rays and a blood test before her dental because she is 12. On the x-rays they saw shadows and decided to put her on some Lasix to see if it was just water or something more sinister. After a couple of very long hours we found out it is just water and she needs to take Lasix for the rest of her life. We know Lasix burns out the kidneys after a while but it is not cancer, which is what is important! She is antibiotics right now and will have her dental next week.
  • Ruby has the same thing going on as Zoe. The previous vet clinic cannot find her x-rays so we will have to repeat at our vet next week. I have never seen a dog so calm at the vet! She just didn’t care as the vet poked and prodded. Zoe, on the other hand, was not amused.[1]
  • The growing of the hair experiment is over. I had decided to do something different with it because my sleep apnea head gear had caused a line of flat hair on the top of my head for the past 10 years and I was tired of it. I recently got a new machine and headgear and I realized after a couple of weeks that it does not rest in the same spot and does not need to be tight. So I got my hair cut yesterday!!! My hair, when left to its own devices, is think and coarse. It is so thick that my hats did not fit anymore!
  • I love my new office. I have so much space. The walls are purple and there are dog beds all over the place. Deb ordered some musical note border paper to go around the middle of the walls where the colour changes. It is black and white and should look fabulous!


[1] Zoe is a princess. In fact, that will be the subject of an upcoming blog post!

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘crap, summer seems to have arrived’ edition

  • We said goodbye to Tru on Monday. She was ready to go. We thought she might have passed on her own over the weekend. She went very peacefully. I am pretty sure she lived for an extra 3 months because she liked it here. Rest in peace Tru, you were a very good dog.
  • The last 2 days have been so warm! Uggh. I dread the annual arrival of summer. I just don’t cope in the heat. We are mostly ready though. We need to buy a new air conditioner for the kitchen. I also think the house may be warmer now that the big tree is gone out front.
  • Given that summer appears to have arrived, I am trying to break my feet in to where my Birkenstocks this year. I have spoiled by the plush Naots with orthotics. I really missed wearing the Birks last year so they are on my feet today.
  • Deb and I went to a fundraiser last night. It was a dance and the music was bluegrass and swing. I thought my ears were going to bleed. We lasted a grand total of 2 hours. I donated the dragon I made in filet crochet but it didn’t even get one bid! Deb thinks it was just the wrong crowd. However, the pug umbrella we donated sparked a bidding war. Who knew?
  • All of the dogs are doing really well. We have such a nice group right now. They all get along very well. We are taking Ruby and Zoe to the vet on Monday. Ruby has a heart condition and needs a refill on meds. Zoe seems to cough a couple of times a day. It is not getting worse and it does not happen when she is active. I am thinking collapsing trachea but just want to be sure. We have had her for almost 3 years now, which means she is likely 12. Other than that she is totally fine being her princess, entitled little self.
  • I am in my new office!!! This makes me very happy. We have tons of storage space in here. I have room for all my craft stuff and furniture. Plus it is purple!!!!

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I think we fixed Ruby’ edition

  • I have to say, I thought it would take much longer to fix Ruby. A couple of evenings of ‘puppy massage’ and she is now rolling over on to her back for belly rubs. She is wiggling around and trying to scratch her back. She has become way more engaged. Now when we move, she follows us, ever hopeful some morsel will fall into her perpetually open little maw. She still chooses to sleep in her door less crate but she is pretty tuned in to what is going on. She does the best little dance when she comes in wanting her treat. Now, if she would just learn her name.
  • Tru is holding her own. She has never met a carb she didn’t like. This is a dog who will eat fried potatoes over bacon; cookies over steak; and pasta over roast chicken. We have never come across a dog who has such strange tastes in food. We are not sure if she was starved or if she survived on garbage. I think she ate whatever her people ate and maybe they were vegetarian.
  • Tru and Ruby are now official members of The Swamp pack. They have been adopted. They have fit in quite well.
  • Everyone else is doing really well. We think Zoe may not be as old as we were told. She has not changed at all in the almost 3 years she has been here. Piper is losing some weight so she doesn’t have difficulty breathing in the heat this year.
  • It has been so nice since we hooked up to the city sewer a couple of months ago. We have no more stench that migrates into the house. This time last year when we decide opening a window might be great we no longer have to listen to the noisy neighbours because we can open one up on the quiet side of the house. In the past, there was no way we could open those windows as the smell was overpowering. Sadly the backyard is still a swamp.
  • The frogs have been singing for weeks now. The ribbits are definitely the sound of spring at The Swamp.

Dispatches from The Swamp – ‘the senior dog’ edition

Things at The Swamp have been quite good lately. I had the week before Easter off and I spent it doing self-care. I listened to music and played computer games for a couple of hours a day. This always makes me very happy. I find when I am listening to music and singing my mind completely empties. I am one of those people whose mind never, ever stops. I am always thinking about something or trying to solve a problem. Even at night, if I wake up I have a hard time turning my mind off again.

All of the dogs are doing well. Tru is an amazing dog. We thought she wouldn’t last the week when she first got here. We are not complacent though. She clearly has something wrong with her – likely some kind of cancer. She doesn’t eat much and she is quite thin. Tru has an odd diet. She loves carbs like chocolate and cake. The only meat she will eat right now is ham. We expect that will end eventually. I think Tru is enjoying her life right now and doesn’t want to go anywhere quite yet.

Ruby[1] is doing fabulously. She is slowly coming out of her shell. She is spending much less time in her crate. She really turned a corner last week when she suddenly became more confident. She is still on the periphery of the dogs as she appears to be scared of the pack. Although, Ruby was able to muscle her way in to the group to get some roast beef. She is sleeping on the bed with us at night. She is certainly becoming much more interactive.

Tuber is such a sweetie!

I really wish more people would consider adopting senior dogs. It is such a rewarding experience to take in a dog who has had a less than stellar life and introduce them to all the pleasures of life. Watching a dog have roast beef for the first time is so rewarding. When you have a dog who has been forced to live outside her/his entire life begin to enjoy the comforts of living indoors is amazing. It takes very little to provide for a senior dog. Yes there may be some ongoing medications and things like that but most vets will not be too intrusive with seniors. When you aim for quality of life, feed good quality food, and provide symptom relief, seniors are an amazing addition to any home. Please consider giving a good home to a senior dog. It will change your life. Check out SAINTS for adoptable seniors. You can also check out Boo who is up for adoption through Bully Buddies.

[1] AKA: Tuber, Tater Tot

Fixing Ruby

We recently decided to take in a couple of dogs from Chilliwack Animal Control. Ruby is the second dog. Ruby was clearly a puppy-making machine. Her vulva is huge and her nipples almost touch the floor. She is small for a Shihtzu so she may be crossed with something. This dog was used up until she was no longer able to have babies. She was then callously discarded. Her teeth were so rotten the infection ate through her jawbone so she doesn’t have one on the bottom. All of her teeth had to come out so her little tongue pokes out. She had been kept in such filthy conditions that she actually has dirt embedded in her skin. She had surgery to fix the hernia and was spayed at the same time.

Love the tongue sticking out!

Ruby is quite independent. She doesn’t need anything from humans except food. She does not seem to have experienced the comfort and joy that dogs get when they interact with people. When I pet any of our dogs they almost immediately roll over for a belly rub. Ruby does not. When I pet Piper or Zoe I get happy dog noises. Ruby doesn’t make these noises. When our dogs are scared they come to us. Ruby goes to her door less crate.[1]

Ruby loves food though! Every time she goes out to pee[2] her entire body starts to vibrate in anticipation of the ‘Beggin’ Strips.’ She comes in and her tail starts to wag furiously and her mouth opens waiting for someone to guide as suitably sized piece of treat to her mouth. Yesterday she tasted ham for the first time. I thought she was going to fall over from the pleasure. Ruby eats with gusto.

Hurry up already and put that in my mouth!

Affection is something different. She really does not expect anything. I have started to give her massages at night. It is really important when introducing physical touch that it be firm and purposeful. Light touch actually annoys dogs. Last night, before going to bed I spent about 10 minutes massaging her and talking to her quietly. Eventually she started to really enjoy it. She gave me her belly for a bit until Piper came over and then she moved. She actually started to make some happy noises. I will do this for the foreseeable future. She will, in time, start to seek out affection.

Finally! What took you so long?

It is dogs like Ruby who break my heart. She should have been someone’s pampered pet not a moneymaking machine for humans. Dogs give us all so much already; I can’t imagine how anyone can think it is ok to breed them over and over again until there is nothing left. Actually, I don’t think there is ever a reason to breed a companion animal. With so many dogs waiting in shelters and rescues all over BC it is preferable to adopt rather than buy.

We will make sure that Ruby knows love. We will make sure she knows that not all humans are evil. She will get to know the life of being a pampered pet and she will, at some point, get excited at the sound of our voices knowing that we will make her feel good. And we will do it all on her terms, respecting her wants, needs and desires.


[1] Ruby loves her crate. She has a nice soft bed in it. We took the door off because she does not need to be contained in it. I wish she didn’t feel like that was her safe place but she does.

[2] She is remarkably house-trained it seems or else we are just putting her out enough.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I am on vacation’ edition

–       The last 3 months seem to have just flown by. I have been super-busy at work with grant applications and reports. I have been feeling remarkably well which has made the workload manageable. I always seem to see getting to Easter as a major accomplishment. I hate that there are no statutory holidays between January and April.

–       Ruby is fitting in well. She is such a sweet dog. She is completely addicted to ‘beggin strips.’ Her little body positively vibrates when she knows one is coming her way. I love watching dogs who have had nothing or very little their entire lives begin to embrace life at The Swamp. Every meal is an opportunity to let them know that they are loved. Yesterday she had cooked turkey and her tail never stopped wagging the entire time she was eating it. She is going to see the groomer on Monday. We are hoping they can get her clean. Her belly seems to have embedded dirt in the skin. I will post pictures once she comes back!

–       As the years go by, I have to say that I really dislike our neighbours. They are always imposing some sort of noise on us. This weekend it was parties with very loud music on both Friday and Saturday night. Then there is the almost never-ending barking of their dog. Even weekday evenings we are not immune as they sit outside and talk very loudly. I can’t imagine going through life and being that entitled. I can’t wait for another summer of pool parties…