Oswald Update

dc1725Oswald is about a month out from his permanent tracheostomy. He is doing quite well. Here are some things we have noticed:

  1. Oswald is less anxious. He used to run in circles all the time. This was especially evident in the evenings in the living room when he would run like 20 circles each time before he jumped up on to Deb’s lap. To say this behaviour was annoying is a serious understatement.
  2. He does really well during the day – he doesn’t produce a lot of mucous that has to be cleared all the time. He likes his ‘steaming’ time where we have in breath in steam to loosen mucous.
  3. He still has issues with too much mucous at night. Sometimes it almost completely covers his stoma. He is pretty good about letting me clean it away with a warm facecloth.
  4. He still wants to burrow under the blankets which could be dangerous if he were to inhale the blankets and cover his stoma. But we keep finding him burrowed and he’s still alive so I think we will let him figure it out.
  5. You have to be very careful how you pick him up as it can cover his stoma and then he can’t breathe.
  6. Like the vet said, he is starting to use his nose somewhat for breathing (and smelling!). They did clear out his everted saccules so that he would have a little better breathing function through his upper airway.

We are somewhat surprised by the amount of care his stoma requires. However, we didn’t really have a choice and it was far better to do it now before the summer when he really would have suffered.

Hopefully, we will get our new piece of fence built soon (we have to cut off access to the pond and the long grass at the back of the property. If he were to fall into the pond he would drown immediately and the long grass poses the threat of an aspiration pneumonia. Plus, we can’t see him when he’s back there. I am sure the neighbours will be overjoyed as none of the dogs will be able to get all the way back to bark at their dog.


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.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘this and that’ edition


Piles of granny squares
Piles of granny squares

I have been neglecting my blog as of late. I want to post about all sorts of political and feminist things but I am tired. I am tired of the governmental corruption, patriarchal bullshit and our politicians thinking we are stupid. The state of affairs for women is deplorable; the dominant discourse is doing its best to keep us in check. It seems that any ground we gain in one area is lost in another. All over the world, women are being raped, beaten and subjugated and I feel powerless. I am still fighting the good fight in my tiny corner of the world but it is not enough. We need a revolution.

Instead of political commentary, I shall regale you all with tales from The Swamp!

• Jesse is awesome! He is doing so well. We have started playing fetch in the backyard and he loves it. He is getting much better about actually bringing back the ball. He actually caught some air yesterday, jumping a foot off the ground to catch a ball. The downside is that he is obsessed with playing ball. He is now barking and whining at the pail of balls on the barbecue. He is a happy, happy boy!
• Gracie has also come leaps and bounds. Her anxiety-based chewing on herself has lessened a great deal. The key is to keep her brain stimulated and lots of love and attention. Luckily she landed at The Swamp where all of this is abundantly available. She loves to cuddle with us (mostly Deb) although I do get my daily cuddles too. This dog never stops moving. She wants to play all the time. Her toilet training has improved greatly and she seems settled for the most part. She still does not like going in the car. I think she associates the car with bad things although who can really know. She whines and cries the whole time. Hopefully she will begin to realize that trips in the car mostly end at the dog park and then she comes home.
• Everyone else is doing well. Zoe still has quite the spring in her step given her age. Piper has lost a little more weight and is looking like a skinny pug these days. I have been taking her to work once a week and she really enjoys it. She gets to be the centre of attention for a whole day. Sawyer and Kiefer are also doing well. They like to cuddle together in odd positions!
• I have discovered David’s Tea. Oh my god is all I can say! The Earl Grey is to die for; it is so full of flavour. I can never see going back to Twining’s. I doubt I will ever drink coffee again!
• We have been watching some outstanding TV as of late. The Americans, a new show on FX, is about 2 embedded KGB spies raising a family and posing as Americans. It really does a great job of capturing the Cold War and the tension of the 80s. Justified is another great FX show particularly if you like hillbillies and the American south. He is an unconventional US Marshall. I am still digging the Walking Dead, Deb not so much. Deb is now watching Weeds from the beginning, which has been quite amusing.
• I am making another afghan now. For some reason, I find it very comforting to make piles and piles of granny squares. Then I turn them into an afghan. This one will take a while as I am making it for our queen-sized guest bedroom.


Finished afghan
Finished afghan


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.


Bright-eyed Tosh
Bright-eyed Tosh

Tosh came to us because her human had to go into a care facility due to dementia. She started her life out with her brother Mack. Collectively they were known as ‘MackandTosh.’ By all accounts he took those dogs everywhere; they were here his constant companions. Mack died a couple of years ago but Tosh soldiered on. It was not hard to tell that Tosh had been well loved and socialized. She lived in her father’s first retirement facility with some other small dogs and everyone loved her. Tosh ended up at one the daughter’s homes and she couldn’t[1] keep her. She never really gave me good reasons she couldn’t keep Tosh in spite of having other rescued dogs. As seniors go, Tosh was easy: she was continent, relatively healthy and content.

We have been adopting senior dogs for several years now. We have set up our house to deal with the issues of seniors so incontinence is not really a big deal. We make changes for our old ones whether it involves carrying them up and down the stairs so they can sleep with us or helping them outside to pee. We make sure they get all the really good food they want and that if they have pain issues or need other vet care they get it. We also fall in love with them – hard and quickly.

Here is the thing about the seniors: they are the hardest to rescue. You are talking about taking in other people’s dogs who are losing their home simply because they have become old and frail. Instead of keeping their senior companions, the animals who have been with them for, in most cases, years they choose to find a new home for them. If the animals are lucky they end up at SAINTS or at our house where they will be adored and looked after for the time they have left. Where having an accident doesn’t matter and there is always a warm, dry bed to lie in.

Seniors are the most rewarding to rescue. Invariably they are grateful and they give you everything they have to give. Even though Tosh didn’t know us, she looked up at us with her adoring, bright, wide eyes. She followed us around regardless of where we went. If she got stuck on the wrong side of a gate we certainly knew it. She would go outside to pee but we had better be right there to let her in or she would start her bark screaming.

I don’t understand how people can rehome their seniors. How can you just get rid of a dog you have loved for years? I couldn’t do it. I guess I have to be ok with the fact that I will never get it. Yet, I know, that we will continue to take on the seniors even though a little piece of our hearts go with them when they die.

We love you Tosh. You were a very, very good dog.

[1] Wouldn’t.

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.

Dispatches from The Swamp – the ‘demanding residents’ edition

Being home for any length of time makes me realize how completely enslaved we are to the animals who make The Swamp their home. It seems like we are either getting up to let the dogs out or in and every single time we get up, Edith the guinea pig screams for lettuce. Here is a breakdown of their demanding behaviour:

Jesse – He is a princess. Yesterday I went out and took Piper with me. He screamed so loud and insistently he woke Deb from a sound sleep. Thinking he must be caught in a leg hold trap she frantically went to find him. She did think, just for a moment, that perhaps I had fallen and he was sounding the alarm but then realized he wouldn’t do that! He sounds like a freaking Banshee when he really lets go. I have suggested putting a pea under his bed to see if he would notice.

Sawyer – We were joking around about how well Sawyer would do in the wild. After all, who would turn on his electric ‘bankie’ for him so he isn’t cold? He also loves to play with Deb when it comes to eating. He seems to not really like to eat, so Deb caters to his every gastronomic whim and it usually involves hand feeding. I somehow think he would die without lightly seared pork and beef. He will occasionally deign to eat a couple of raw chicken legs.

Kiefer – To put it bluntly – Kiefer is a knob. He barks just to hear himself talk. After he eats he will bark from the back porch for someone to come and get him even though the door is open. When he barks to go out or come in, he means it, as in do it now suckers!

Zoe – is perhaps our most demanding dog. If you even have dinner at The Swamp, you will be treated to the dulcet tones of her non-stop barking. If that doesn’t work then she claws at the furniture trying to get to you or attempts to rip open your leg. If she gets on the footrest of my chair, she will launch on to my head. For a full explanation of her behavior check this post out.

Edith – The guinea pig rules us. She screams so loud for lettuce every single time anyone moves in the living room. If the service is not fast enough, and it never is, she has now taken to flicking her shavings out of her enclosure. Edith has also decided she only really likes the boxed baby greens. I tried to give her some romaine off a head of lettuce and she refused to eat it. We have learned to give in because she will always win.

Gracie and Piper are not demanding at all. Gracie really just wants to be with you and by with you, I mean on you. She needs to cuddle. Piper demands nothing except for some attention some times when she thinks others are getting more than she is but this is rare. She does also like the odd treat when no one else is around. I am happy to oblige.

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

I have next week off. I can hardly believe it. I have been working full out since June and I have had no time off this year that did not involve my mother.[1] Deb also has most of next week off so we are looking forward to some serious together time and communing with the dogs. In no particular order, here are the things I plan to do next week:

  1. Crochet
  2. Let the dogs in and out about 15 times per day.[2]
  3. Cook. I want to make some soups for the freezer to take for lunches.
  4. Sleep
  5. Watch obscene amounts of TV whilst I crochet.
  6. Blog[3]
  7. Listen to music
  8. Play computer games
  9. Buy some new music

If I can help it, I intend to only leave the house to forage for supplies. I really could become a hermit if I didn’t have to leave the house to work. It sounds like a great week to me!

[1] This does involve my mother but not until the end and only for 1 day!

[2] Heaven forbid they all go at once!

[3] NaBloPoMo does not recognize vacations!

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘things for which I am grateful’ edition

I have been a little moody/bitchy since Sunday. This is not normally me. I realize that a great deal of why I am feeling so crappy is that I have not had any time off since June that did not involve my mother. I tried to get a couple of weeks leave without pay in September but the powers that be said no. I still have some vacation days left so I have asked for next week off. If I don’t get it, I am going to be very upset.

So, in the meantime, I have decided that if I focus on some positive things my outlook may be different. Here is the list:

  1. I am grateful for my wife. I am a fortunate woman because I get to share my life with someone who loves me fiercely. We support each other and laugh so much.
  2. I am grateful for our dogs. Without dogs, I would just merely exist rather than live. They make me smile and laugh every single day.
  3. Music and the amazing dock in my office. I also have really good speakers in my car.
  4. The NHL Lockout
  5. CBC Radio One
  6. The end of the US campaign!

Swamp Lists: 10 Reasons I love dogs

  1. Dogs love you unconditionally – to them you are a hero.
  2. Everything you do is interesting to your dog. Want to go to the bathroom alone? Forget it that’s very interesting.[1]
  3. Every single dog is an individual. They all have their quirks and little weird behaviors that make them incredibly endearing.[2]
  4. They provide free entertainment for your guests. At our house, Sawyer always treats guests to the ‘humpy bunny’ show. Not to be missed at The Swamp!
  5. They will assist you with your diet. It is really hard to eat a lot with 12 eyes staring at you expectantly.
  6. I love sleeping with the dogs. The little snores and breathing sounds are very comforting.
  7. The happy dog dance that ensues whether you have been gone for 5 minutes or 5 hours. It never fails to make my heart sing.
  8. The gentle affection between dogs is so powerful.
  9. The sheer joy on their faces as they chase each other through the house and we try not to get tripped.
  10. The way your dog looks up at you like you are their universe.

[1] Sometimes it seems like the dogs think the bathroom is magic portal that is going to transport you to a new and very interesting place without them!

[2] And sometimes a little frustrating.