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 ‘can’t you all go out at once?’ edition

We are back up to six canines at The Swamp. This means a lot of getting up and down to let them in and out. Obviously we try to get as many dogs out at a time to minimize the trips however they always seem to have other ideas:


Kiefer is ultimately lazy and he only does things on HIS schedule. Often we will have just let most of the dogs out and back in. Ten minutes later in Kiefer time[1] he wants out. If he deigns to go out with everyone else he won’t come back in when the door opens again. Instead he lays in the grass until I have sat back down, become comfortable again and picked up my crochet hook. It never fails.


She will go out with everyone but she won’t come back in. She likes to hang out in the yard ridding it of every possible threat. She barks and carries on particularly if the German Shepard dog is outside next door. Her other favourite pass time is barking at the coyotes who are yipping somewhere. She also takes forever to pee. Her toilet training is rock solid but man don’t try to hurry that dog up!


Or Mr. Whiny Pants as I like to call him. Sawyer is afraid of the cold. In the winter trying to get him out from underneath his heated blanket is Herculean feat. His toilet training is still suspect so he must go out or he will sneak off to have an accident in the bathroom. Pretty much with him you get to stand and watch him pee, which is quick thankfully, and he comes right back in. If you don’t wait you will just be walking back in about 30 seconds when he decides to bark and cry. Then there are the nights he wants to go out multiple times for no apparent reason. He can whine like no dog I have ever heard.


Zoe is a Shih Tzu. This breed seems to have something against getting their feet wet. The rainy season here is a nightmare. She will not go off the step and she sometimes pees right there so everyone else gets to dodge it. At least she generally responds well to the lets go out excitement and doesn’t take forever!


When Gracie arrived at The Swamp she seemed to have stellar toilet training. She would race outside, pee and whatever and come right back in. It was all a ruse. She is now in boot camp, which means she is made to get up in the morning which she hates and we are teaching her to pee on command. She is not so happy to go out and pee now. She is starting to get the command now so it is taking much less time. Of course I am comparing her to Piper who used to take 30 minutes to pee when we had her in boot camp!


Jesse is a rock star! He goes out and comes in quickly. Although, I have never seen a dog who pees for as long as he does, I swear sometimes it is 90 seconds of peeing. I am not sure what is up with that. It might be his kidney disease.

In other news I have been reading all the entries posted on the Dog Shaming blog. I have to say that I feel pretty damn good about our dogs! No one has eaten the furniture, our underwear or eaten anyone’s false teeth! Our crew are angels.

[1] Hmm, he is a Newfoundland after all…

Dispatches from the Swamp – ‘the new dogs’ edition Part 2

Part 1 is here.

Bully Buddies asked us if we would foster a senior pit bull cross who was languishing in a shelter.[1] Jesse’s life had been rough. His owner had difficulty caring for him from time to time and he could no longer. Jesse had 2 botched cruciate ligament repairs that have left his back legs weak and painful. If that weren’t bad enough part of his spine is fused. He saw a vet to determine if his pain could be treated and he was started on Metacam and Tramadol. Jesse arrived at The Swamp 2 weeks ago.

Handsome senior pittie face.

The first thing we noticed about Jesse was his absolute obsession with balls. He had to have a ball in his mouth at all times. He was also desperate to play fetch. Thankfully this obsessive behavior has calmed down. Jesse does have severe separation anxiety. He becomes very stressed when left alone. After 2 weeks we have figured out how to manage this for the couple of times a week he needs to be alone.

Waiting for the ball to be thrown!

We took him to our vet last week, as we were concerned that he may be diabetic as he was sucking back the water and is very thin. He has kidney disease. So we are not sure how long Jesse has given that he has to be on Metacam[2] for pain management. We will not compromise quality of life for any senior dog – he has to be pain free. He also needs to gain about 7 pounds, as he is really thin right now. He received a cartrophen shot[3] and he is getting green lipped mussel to help his arthritis and strengthen his back legs.

You can see how thin he is here.

Jesse is a good dog who has had a rough life; you can see it in his face. He is not used to any kind of comfort. He loves lying on the couch however, he really does not want to go in there without one of us. So every evening he goes towards the living room while looking back to see if someone is going to come with him. Yesterday he had the courage to go and lay on the couch without me going with him!

Here is Jesse’s top 5 favourite things in the whole world:

5. Stuffies – like any pit bull, Jesse loves to rip apart the stuffies. Luckily for him we have a whole laundry basket full of old ones that he can destroy.[4]

4. Bones – Jesse really enjoys a good bone. He works on them for a long time. This probably why his teeth are really clean.

3. Cuz – Oh my god! He loves a good Cuz. I am very happy once he has punctured it and it no longer screams![5]

2. Stuffed Kongs – Jesse gets one of these at bedtime. It takes him a while to empty them. Deb is also getting very creative. Last night it was chicken and cheese microwaved so the cheese melted.

1. Balls – of course the number one thing on Jesse’s list of favourite things are his tennis balls or any kind of ball.

This is one of Jesse’s favourite beds note all the toys!

We hope that Jesse is with us long enough to lose the worried look on his face; he has seen so much adversity. It is our job to make sure this dog knows some comfort and stability before the end of his life. We don’t know how long he has but we will make sure every day is a good day for him. A huge thank you to Bully Buddies for pulling him out of the shelter. It is situations like this where rescue is at its best – pulling a dog that is likely not adoptable but doing it for the dog.

Jesse laying in the sun in my office.

[1] The request did not come out of the blue. I had been involved in a thread on FB about perhaps taking an aggressive French Bull dog. The Frenchie didn’t need our help after all.

[2] Metacam is an NSAID and can be hard on the internal organs like the kidneys and the liver.

[3] He will have these weekly for 3 more weeks.

[4] This behavior has lessened.

[5] Anyone who has lived with a Cuz loving dog will understand.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘rough week’ edition

  • I had a horrible week. Last Sunday, I decided to clean the wax out of my ears and succeeded in only blocking the left ear. I have oddly shaped ears with small canals and I have a problem about every 10 years. I kept thinking it would clear. I thought there was just some water in there. We tried everything, warm olive oil, syringing all to no avail. On Wednesday, I had a ulcerative colitis attack and that combined with my ear I was really sick. I ended up going home because I couldn’t stand to be at work. We have some really loud people and all I could hear was them and nothing else. Plus I had a fever and the chills. Thursday, I finally went to a walk-in clinic[1] and he put some noxious smelling stuff in my ear. Then he got this big-ass syringe thing and flushed it out. When it cleared, I felt so much better! Note to self: never, ever fuck with your ears again.
  • Tru is really getting close to the end now. She is fading more each day. She is not in distress or pain. We have decided we will take her to the vet on Monday to say goodbye. She has done really well. She lived two months more here just on sheer pleasure. We thought she wasn’t going to make it past the first week but love and good food really helped her rally.
  • We also just found out that our favourite vet has left for Edmonton! We had just broken her in and now she is gone!


[1] My doctor hates it when we go to clinics so I may hear about it!

Innovation from The Swamp – the ‘Zoe Diet™’

We have the next new greatest diet plan ever living here at The Swamp! Zoe is our secret weapon. I think if we could market her to normal people we would make a small fortune. Here is why: whenever I eat something she claws my legs and barks at me non-stop until I give her what I am eating. She usually will allot me 5 minutes before she starts her tirade.

Do I look capable of being a tyrant?

If I am eating in the living room she starts by popping up on her back legs and clawing at my chair. This invariably annoys me quickly because we have leather furniture. Then she barks. About every 10 seconds she will let out one bark.[1]

When that fails[2] she will jump up on my footrest and paw my stomach.[3] When that fails to work to her satisfaction[4] she will launch onto my chest. This means that all 20 pounds of her lands on my lungs with her face right in my face.[5] Then I put her down and we start over again, wash, rinse, repeat.

Yesterday I was eating breakfast at my desk. Zoe detected that I could possibly be eating and came into my office. She started clawing at my lower leg.[6] She then stretched up on her back legs and clawed my chair and started barking. I ignored her for a while as I tried to enjoy my eggs and tater tots. Shihtzus are knows for their tenacity and Zoe has that in spades. Finally, I give in and give her a piece of egg. She sniffs it and turns her head away. She doesn’t even like eggs! Then I gave her a tater tot. She didn’t want that either. I thought I was free now that she knew I wasn’t interested I thought I would be permitted to finish my meal in peace and quiet. Huh, was I ever wrong.

It's all lies. Here I am patiently waiting for my turn.

Here is the thing I have learned about living with Zoe: she always gets her way. It does not matter what we do to try to change a behavior we always lose. If I were to put her out of the room while I ate[7] she would create such a raucous noise that there would be no peace for anyone in the house. One time I thought I was going to outsmart her when she was up on my footrest clawing at my stomach for my food. I decided I would suddenly lower the footrest so she landed on the floor. I did it once, I did it a second time and the third time, instead of landing on the floor she launched on my head. I lost.

I need a rest after driving my humans to distraction.

Such is life with a Shihtzu. They are crafty and tenacious. Zoe is a prime example of a self-actualized Shihtzu. She has come a long way from her former puppy mill life. Thanks again to Turtle Gardens for rescuing our little despot. Yvette’s dreams of her becoming a ‘yuppy puppy’ have long been achieved.

So does anyone want to try the Zoe Diet™?

[1] I have actually become very good at ignoring her barking. It fades to background noise for a while anyway.

[2] Which in her little mind means she has not been fed fast enough.

[3] I then tell her: “Zoe, don’t do that it! It hurts mommy.” But she is an evil, Machiavellian dictator and she does not care. For her the ends definitely justify the means!

[4] See footnote 2.

[5] Sometimes I think she wants to take the food right out of my mouth.

[6] I am dreading capri season!

[7] I’d probably gain weight.

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