The Horrible Awful Things We Do

This is what is left of our beloved Riley, a sad, dejected, tortured animal with one a white socks wrapped around his back foot. (Dastardly secret: that sock is soaked in something that tastes HORRIBLE.) His life is awful. I took this photograph this morning when we went outside (yes, ‘we’) to lie in the dirt and sniff the backyard air, which must be done 3-5 times a day, every day. Since his surgery (last Thursday) Nancy or I go out with him every time he goes out, and because we do not have a beloved husky relative somewhere in our genealogy (the closest we can come is a few random Scots) we last about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the temperature, and then start shouting about going ‘inside’.

On his own, Riley will lie for hours in a snowbank.

Why are we so cruel? He has an inflatable donut around his neck. He had bandaging on one of his two surgical sites. We have a nylon no-lickhim boot we put over one site (but both are supposed to be as open to the air as possible, so….) We watched like hawks from Thursday night through Saturday, when we both fell asleep. Today we took him in for a bandage change and we asked, “Why are his toes so red?” and the vet said, “Because he’s licking them.”

This is how fast this can happen. On the way to his bandage change, Nancy put him in the front seat of the car so she could watch him, tried to leave the driveway and realized our trash can AND our replacement recycling bags had been arranged at the head of the driveway so she would have to hit one or the other. She put the car in park. She got out, moved the can to one side and threw the bags closer to the house, got back into the car, and his foot was bleeding he had licked so hard.

The collar has an opening so we can get his head into it. He has learned that if he manipulates the collar enough he can get the opening under his chin and from there, he can lick his front paw (site #2, has open stitches.)

He sleeps in about two hours increments, but we can’t count on that. When he’s not sleeping he’s trying to lick his surgical sites. Or he’s just sitting there, gazing off into space, waiting for us to lose focus…

Other people have had far more serious problems with their dogs. But just let me add this. Annie had surgery on her knee–twice–and she pulled out two out of some thirty-odd stitches. Riley would have all of his stitches gone in six minutes, if we would just leave him alone.

Guarding the gate while Riley recovers:

And this, just because I like it:

Chickens at the gym. If you care, this is Big Red and Small. Small is our most social chicken, by far. This morning, while I aired out the dogs, Small sat on my thigh and shared my granola bar with me.

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The Dog Is Stoned

Our Riley, twelve days after we got him in whatever year that was. He was (and is) a handsome dude.

Yesterday we took him to the vet and they removed the large tumor on his right rear leg (the one we’ve been struggling with these past few weeks) AND the one on his left from leg which appeared to be a kindred spirit, if not as advanced.

The dog is stoned. He was so stoned last night when he came home that periodically he would start thrashing, and I would calm him down. It turns out he needed to pee: once he’d done that, he went off to dreamland. The three of us–Riley, Nancy and I–survived last night, but neither human got much sleep, waking up every time he moved or shifted position or rubbed his inflatable donut against something. The good news is his sutures are fine and the wound they couldn’t suture is still nicely wrapped.

So, yes–after all this anxiety I’ve suffered, Nancy fixed the collar so it’s more stable, and so far Riley has behaved himself and not chewed off his foot. We have biopsy results to wait for, but I’ve decided not to worry about that. I got his antibiotics into him and he is sleeping peacefully on one of h is many, many beds (not only do we have 3 dogs, we have Nancy who builds dog beds anywhere a dog might think of sleeping. We want him to be comfortable.)

We have anti-anxiety meds if we need them (for the dog. We are probably hopeless.). We have pain meds. Life is as good as it can get when your dog has holes in him.

CHAIR TRAINING

I came in here to call the vet to clarify a few details and Daisy was sleeping among my chair wheels. I mentioned that it’s really a dangerous spot for such a small dog. I even mentioned she might move a few inches over and save herself pain and agony. I ruffled her ears. She said something not suitable for a public blog and moved over.

All is well, right?

Before I got up I thought (our of sheer habit, these days) to check my wheels.

Daisy is wrapped around them.

We do not give up our perks easily.

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Today is The Day

Riley is in surgery today. They will be taking off the bad lump, doing a biopsy, taking off the auxiliary lump on his left front leg (poor dog), trimming his nails and…just generally spiffing him up. The vet said the collar should work. If it doesn’t, he’s sending drugs. But at least both of them are coming off, and with any luck, he’ll start to heal.

As I sit here in my rolling office chair, cuddled up against the wheels on my right rear side (below my bad eye) is a small brown pile of hair. Our beloved Daisy. I thought, for a while, that we had reached an agreement about the chair. I would move, she would reprimand me and then she would get up and go sleep on her bed, which is 4.5 inches to the left. (She has two in the same area. She rarely sleeps on either one of them.) I thought to myself, “Wow–I get scolded, but then she moves out of harm’s way!”

That was then, this is now.

Fortunately what Daisy does the most of is sleep and when she sleeps, there is a steady stream of tiny dog noises that tell me where she is. Riley chases rabbits in his sleep or snores, Pugsy snores and wakes up to scratch, but Daisy boofs, snores, whimpers, makes belly noises, farts… My hearing is at that level where if I can hear this symphony of sounds, she is probably right under my wheels.

I remain the only hearing member of our household.

Daisy not only does not hear easily, she has even more difficulty locating sounds, so to get her to go out Nancy or I stand in in the kitchen shouting, “DAISY, DAISY, DAISY…” Sometimes we dance around so she has something to sight-find, but that sense is not all that reliable, either.

Riley considers coming when called an option anyway, but when he’s really not in the mood he’s deaf. This is compounded by the fact that in reality…he doesn’t hear well. So when he is standing in the back yard and I call him and he looks at me and then looks back off across the fence with a sort of ‘yeah, right’ flick of his tail, I’m never sure if he’s not coming, he getting into the mood and may come eventually or he didn’t hear me.

And there is Pugsy. Pugs runs outside every chance he gets. You open a door, Pugs runs through it. He’s usually back in 2-3 minutes because all of our doors lead to the outside and he is not an outside dog, but on rare occasions he becomes a bloodhound. Well…a short, short-eared, short-nosed house bloodhound. I will find him racing intently across the yard with his nose to the ground, running in erratic patterns like some foolish cat snuck in the yard the night before and he’s tracking it. When this happens, I can stand in the yard and shout, “PUGSY!” until I’m blue in the face and nothing happens because The Great Hunter is after his prey and cannot be bothered.

The other day he dashed outside as I let Riley in and it annoyed me, and I called him. He glanced at me, but he ran around the yard and then his nose hit the dirt and he hunted and I was nothing of any consequence until finally he worked his way up to Nancy’s tomato pots, lifted one hind leg, stuck out his tongue for balance, and peed. And then he happily came inside. So Pugsy can hear when he’s not hunting and he doesn’t need to pee.

Daisy is snoring underneath my chair now. Pugs is sprawled out on the floor about three feet behind me, safely out of wheel range.

And I love Riley, but I love sleep more, and I’ll drug him if I have to. Waking up in the middle of the night to blood all over the floor is just not part of my vision of a happy life. I know; dogs lick. Fortunately Riley also loves to sleep, so we should all get through this just fine.

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We Are Not Outdoor Dogs

Nancy is standing with the back door open shouting, “DAISY, DAISY, DAISY…come on, Daisy you can do it, oh, what a good girl, only two more rugs…”

Of the two littles, Daisy is more likely to go outside and even more likely to stay outside once she’s there. We just have to get her there, which is an on-going battle with hearing loss, total lack of interest, arthritis challenges and her instinctive belief that human beings are annoying and relatively useless things best ignored (unless they are holding a food bowl.) Yesterday we washed her butt hairs again, which means we are in violation of the Prime Directive (Do Not Touch My Hair.) We are being punished. It is clearly our fault that what goes in comes out the other end in such poor condition anyway. At this point she lives on rice, boiled chicken and boiled eggs.

When she’s feeling better Daisy eats about a half a cup of kibble a day (which blows my mind) and whatever she can scavenge from the other dogs’ bowls. She is not skinny. But she has recurring issues which smell HORRIBLE and end in butt baths, which is the worst kind of torture known to dog, so then we put her on rice and chicken again. Since most of what Daisy does she does on or near a puppy pad, we know more about her habits than the other two dogs. It greets us every morning. Last week Nancy researched and bought a bag of dog food for dogs with sensitive stomachs. Daisy seemed to be pooing outside again, all seemed well, so over a period of about four days we gave her….probably thirty-seven kibbles. For dog’s with digestive issues. I could hold every kibble we gave her in the palm of my hand. And yesterday we did another mandatory butt scrub, and she’s back to rice and chicken.

She loves rice and chicken, so it’s hard to say if this poses any hardship for her. We, on the other hand, have a 50 pound bag of food for an 11 year-old dog who eats half a cup of kibble a day when she eats that much.

Yes. We have different food for each of the three dogs. And I once guffawed at a friend who just cooks her dog’s food from scratch. (We only do that for one, so far.)

But onward. Pugsy goes outside to eat… Well, everything Pudgy does is to eat. He comes inside to eat, he scours the kitchen for food to eat. When Nancy is cooking, he sits right beside her and stares intently at the floor because that’s where food falls. But he goes outside to eat chickenfeed. He doesn’t get any in the house because we think he’s allergic to corn and grains, so we buy grain-free, corn-free Pugsy food by the 50 pound bag so he can forage for ground corn in the chicken yard.

That said, I must give praise where praise is due. I drop things. Give me four pills to hold and I’ll drop one of them. And I have one eye (well, I have two–one works) and so nothing is ever exactly where I reach for it, and He Who Is on a Lifetime Restricted Diet to maintain his hair is indeed the same he who is at my feet, supervising the division of food, supplements and pills for the dogs’ dinners. He takes half a antihistamine pill with his meals, Daisy takes an anti-seizure medication, and I invariable drop them. If I say firmly, “NO!” he will politely back away. He’s very good at that. The other day I dropped a Daisy pill and I couldn’t find it, and he stood there and watched me for a while and then he walked over and put his nose on it and looked at me. I automatically said, “NO!” and he backed away, but I think he was showing me where it was so I could stop looking for it and get on with the feeding portion of dinner.

Daisy does not participate in the preparing of their food. She stands in the kitchen doorway and dances. If I take too long, she barks at me to hurry it up. So for 23.5 hours of the day Daisy is asleep in a pile somewhere near my foot and for half an hour a day she is dancing for her dinner. She doesn’t spin like Pugs, but I’m willing to bet she used to.

So yesterday morning Nancy and I committed an anti-Pom indignity of unforgiveable proportions, and we were shunned all day. This means she slept two and even three feet away from me unstead of wrapped around the rollers of my chair.

Nancy went to bed. Riley went to bed. Pugsy went to bed. I left my desk and went back into the living room to finish a beading project.

I heard something. Something familiar. Something…displeased with the course of life as we know it. Finally I rocked forward in my chair, and I was being punished by a semi-sleeping Daisy who had returned to the living room to lay in front of the couch and mutter in dogspeak, ‘This is not what do now. You are completely off-schedule, you should go back to your desk or go to bed immediately, but this is NOT what we do now.

“But you’re here. So here am I. And I don’t like it, and don’t even THINK about washing my butt.”

Notes on Riley: his surgery is Thursdays. Nancy and I almost killed each other over the weekend and Riley tore his leg open twice and we were all about in tears. Monday we dug out the first donut we bought for him (the one he could shuck off his head and blind himself on one side while tearing open his tumor with this teeth) and Nancy took out the inner tube and sewed to additional collar loops into the cover, we put it back together, put it on the dog, wrapped his leg and let him go.

He slept all day. We got caught up on projects we’d neglected while staring at the dog for signs of unauthorized licking.

We have a wound booty coming which was designed to let in air flow while preventing licking. We have a spare donut coming. We have anti-lick spray. We have a dog tranquilizer if we need it. We have more bandaging material if we need a break. We got some sleep. And if nothing else works, we have a no-lick muzzle–which he hates–we could resort to.

He’s a good dog. He’s trying to figure out what is wrong with us.

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The Dog in the Donut

What you see before you is a fairly happy dog wearing an inflatable donut around his neck.

“Why would anyone do that to a dog?” you might well ask, and I would answer, “our vet told us to.”

The donut is intended to keep Riley from licking the tumor on his right rear leg, just above his paw.

It’s not a spectacular photograph, but spend a moment studying it anyway. Look at the donut. Look at the dog. Look at the length of the dog versus the width of the donut. Try to imagine where his right rear paw is. How long his legs are. If you need a clearer model, imagine Riley is a mutt and none of us know what dogs united in back alleys or people’s back yards to produce such a wonderful mix, but he is, in shape and size, about two-thirds of a golden retriever. (per his vet; the dog pound, which issues his license, considers him two-thirds of a yellow lab.)

The donut not only does not prevent him from licking his wound, it doesn’t even slow him down. Neither did the collar for a bigger dog that we bought first. (So yes, we have two inflatable dog donuts. No pool, but I’m not sure that’s where I’d attach it to keep him from drowning anyway.) If you read deeply enough in the literature about inflatable dog collars, they will mention the possibility that this collar will not prevent a dog from licking his hind foot. Imagine that.

We are supposed to leave this ripped open fatty tumor exposed to the air so it can heal. Next thursday (assuming the three of us live that long) we will take him to the vet and have the tumor removed. We will then bring him home and leave the excision exposed to the air until it heals. they can’t sew the wound shut because there’s not enough skin left to cover it. The vet mentioned this will probably take a while to heal. Like…a long time.

Shortly after we got Riley a squirrel found him lounging in the back yard and said to his buddies, “Hey, guys–watch this!” And he played Tease the Dog from the squirrel highway around out back yard we mistook for a fence. He appeared to be a slow, fat, not very bright squirrel, and Riley was young and brave and our protector, and he lunged at the fence–missing the squirrel–and came down, knocking over a trellis on the way, which caught his front paw and then bent it backwards and pinned him to the ground.

He screamed so loud neighbors we didn’t even know (because we don’t know any of our neighbors) appeared in the yard and on our front porch to find out what happened. It took four people to work him loose, with three more giving directions. I was convinced his leg was broken. We got him free, and he limped for the first five steps, but there were a lot of wonderful people in our yard–which almost never happens–and he, being the host he was born to be, needed to greet them all, and in the process of this wonderful event he forgot all about his trapped paw.

I took him to the vet the next day anyway. They couldn’t find a bruise. Until about a week later, when he had licked all the hair and a good portion of skin off his leg. I took him back to the vet, who diagnosed this new injury as a ‘lick granuloma’. He did it. They had no idea why. “It’s possible his leg was a little bruised,” the vet allowed. She shrugged, because–as far as I can tell–her dogs don’t create lick granulomas.

Fast forward ten years. He had a rash on his ass when we got him which turned out to be a flea allergy, never happened again, and he had a lick granuloma. During an annual check-up he was discovered to have a tumor in his anal gland, which are hard to remove, make horrible wounds to heal, and tend to spread fast and in ugly ways. We took him home to love as long as we could. After our adventure with the granuloma we decided we were not putting a ten year-old obsessive licker through anal surgery. We waited for him to let us know when to Make the Decision. For a year. Took him back for his next physical and there was no trace of his tumor. We did not complain.

I did say, “well, he has a number of odd lumps…” And the vet said, “yes. He’s a golden.” They’re harmless. (The lumps are harmless, although, pretty much so are goldens.) We don’t do anything about those. They’re fatty tumors, they’re harmless, just ignore it. It is this harmless fatty tumor golden’s are so prone to that we’re battling right now because, as it turns out, they’re not harmless on the lower leg because if they get too big they restrict blood flow and start to die.

I’m not sure what part of this process made him start licking it.

There is a video on YouTube (more than one actually) about dogs that lick too much and the vets who love them, and many of these videos star particularly long athletic socks one ties artfully around the dog. We have a polar fleece sock taped over his foot with part of a plastic drink bottle inside it to keep it away from the wound. We’ll see how that works: last night we had an ordinary sock with the plastic tube on him and he ripped it off and bled all over the bed room floor.

I should probably mention that–although we love him dearly and he is a wonderful, wonderful dog–Riley is not the Elon Muck of dogdom. He is not particularly inventive, he is not smarter than your average dog, he’s just a nice, good-tempered, easy-going too-small-to-be-a-golden-retriever kind of dog. We cannot be the only two people in the world trying to deal with a dog who won’t leave a bandage alone.

We bought him a no-lick muzzle, but he hates it and we’re trying to ‘acclimate’ him to it, as the written instructions suggest. I think it might work–as long as he doesn’t turn inside out trying to dig it off, which I figure is every bit as likely. In my imaginary scenario he manages to get the back leg caught in the muzzle strap and rips off more of the tumor.

The dog spends most of his time on a six foot leash now, next to either Nancy or me. And I admit it; we’ve bandaged the hell out of that leg. We do try to leave it exposed as long as we can, but he’s an old, arthritic dog–he needs all four legs, and I can’t watch him chew one off.

He shouldn’t be that hard to watch, we keep telling each other. He sleeps most of the time. And it’s true–Riley is retired. Whatever it was he did in his youth now takes a back seat to naps, siestas, and time spent lying in holes in the dirt. It’s just the thirty seconds when you realize you have a knot in your beading project and you’re trying to untangle it that you look up and he’s ripped it open, licked off the scab and is bleeding yet again. It takes seconds.

Most nights Nancy sleeps beside me, Riley sleeps in the bed beside her, Pugsy sleeps in the blue dog bed and Daisy sleeps…in the red bed, or on the rug on my side, or in another room altogether… Pugsy has allergies which cause him to dig and lick erratically. Right now he’s relatively calm, but he still does it from time to time. Riley has a snore than sounds like he’s licking. Nancy and I lay there in the dark, listening. Is that Riley or Pugs? Okay, which dog is that?

And I keep thinking, ‘there HAS to be a way to protect this leg from the dog attached to it that allows it fresh air, keeps out dirt and mud and stray tongues, and allows him to walk normally so the two of us can sleep.”

Oh, yes. Tonight we sprayed the polar fleece sock with a no-lick spray. And then Nancy and I sneezed for five minutes.

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Tripods to the Left of Us…

When faced with a situation I would rather not be in, I tend to look for someone to blame.

For instance, in October I bought a new keyboard for my computer because the ‘a’ key would stick, or just refuse to type an ‘a’ at all, which was hard on my little finger and my nerves. I installed the new keyboard the day it arrived and immediately complained about something because I’m like that. It is now mid-February. The ‘i’ key sticks. I don’t know why. I don’t know how to fix it. I do know that it requires about 400 tiny screws to remove the back of the keyboard from the front, and once you have done that…you’re looking at a lot of plastic and a sort of circuit board. If there is a home fix, it’s not obvious. I have enough trouble changing batteries in a flashlight.

However, the keyboard is just a distraction.

Riley, our Original Dog, is…a rescue, so he’s somewhere between 11 and 13 years old. He is part Golden Retriever, which we determined by a.) looking at him (a fool’s mission) and b.) counting the number of fatty tumors he had grown in his lifetime. This is apparently a “Golden thing’. He has one slightly larger than a shooter marble on the side of his left reat leg, just above his foot.

We showed the vet. The vet said, “Yeah–we’re not going to do anything about that. They’re harmless.”

So his rabies shot was about to expire and although Riley almost never leaves the back yard, he has in the past, and each time he did he did it alone, with a trail of old women in old car trailing along behind him, shouting, “Riley–come home…” Also he was out of his heartworm and flea meds, so I said, “Time for his annual physical.” Which was scheduled a week and a half in advance.

I happened to notice the lump on his leg was red and the hair had fallen off, so I made a note to mention it. Again.

What a long, long week and a half it was. The lump got redder. He woke me at night grunting and licking something. Normally this is his dick, and I try to ignore it because he does seem to enjoy it, but…this went on. and on. He was licking the lump.

I missed the middle of the night adventure when Nancy woke up and discovered he’d licked the lump until it bled, and she had to bandage it. And then half-slept, half-guarded him to keep him from licking more.

It turns out there is not a lot of blood supply to the foot and leg, and if a tumor grows large enough, it suffocates itself. And then it becomes necrotic.

I didn’t become a vet because I don’t want to know any of that. I don’t like blood or gaping wounds or necrosis in any form. I am usually fairly good at bandaging myself, not so much other people and I really, really do not like open gaping wounds in my dogs. It seems to be that if this is a known danger, someone might have mentioned it. Something simple, like, ‘if this thing gets much bigger, you should probably call us’. (Because he has more than one…) But, no–I’m an over-zealous pet owner, over-zealous pet owner YOU DIDN”T NOTICE THAT BEFORE?

And it’s not fair. If a vet warned us of every dire consequence of owning a dog we’d all have hamsters.

So we have ordered an inflatable neck pillow for R that is supposed to keep him from chewing his foot off because–and this is the very best news–after they remove the tumor March 4…there’s not enough skin left to sew his leg back together, so it needs to be exposed to the open air. (I get to look at this mess! I get to keep it clean! In March, the month of mud! And it will take a long time to heal! Oh, yipee Skipee Do rah Hey!.

R has been a healthy dog. When he was young he got his leg caught in a trellis and he scared most of the neighborhood with his screaming. We got him loose and he limped for four steps, but there were a lot of strangers in our yard and he loves people, so he forgot the whole leg thing, and what I thought was surely a broken bone was not even a bruise.

For the first two days.

But he licked it. And licked it. And licked it until he had a lick granuloma, and Nancy and I wound up throwing him down on the couch and taping sanitary napkins to his leg to keep him from licking it some more.

So my mind, which is creative without any provocation has moved on to…if they have to cut off his leg, how are we going to heal up the hole in his back end…?

One of us needs to medically-induced coma. I don’t even care if it’s him or me.

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The Girls Among Us

I mentioned in a previous post that it’s something of a toss-up, who the best girl in our menagerie might be. Above you see the look of love and devotion that is Daisy’s rival, the splotchy barn cat we live with named Bennie. (For those of you who missed it, ‘Bennie’ is short for Benzonia, which is the county in Michigan Mary Appelhof lived in as either a child or a young adult. I believe it’s where she’s buried. The cat is a stray who wandered in out of a corn field while her friends were still sorting out Mary’s belongings. We suspect Bennie may be a spirit connection to Mary herself.

On the other hand, Mary was nowhere near as cantankerous.)

I will tell you a story about our girls.

This morning Nancy asked me, “how long has it been since the littles went out?” We keep track of this information because neither Pugsy nor Daisy had demonstrated any daytime behavior that might indicate they would like to go outside. (In the evenings, when I am engrossed in Netflix, Daisy could make that same desire clear to a stone.) So we try to put them outside for about ten minutes every two hours. We set timers so we don’t forget them because we are old and they are little and the outside air is cold. In response to Nancy’s question I answered, “I don’t remember,” which meant they were facing expulsion out the back door.

If you walk to the back door Pugsy will race to join you because a trip outside means a trip to the hen house, where he eats as much chicken feed, both new and used, as he can find.

Daisy, on the other hand, is older, the walk to the back door is longer and it interrupts her nap. Also Daisy does not hear well, particularly when she’s sleeping or you’re saying something she’d rather not hear or she’s not in the mood, so even now, 7 months after we adopted them, Nancy and I both cheer her on to the door, “Daisy, Daisy, DAISY! Come on, baby dog, you can do it, come on DAISY!”

This attracts attention.

Daisy doesn’t much care, but the cat: the cat says to herself, “it’s the running of the dogs!” And she stations herself in the middle of the run. She swells slightly in size, narrows her beady green eyes and she says,

“Go ahead. Try it.”

This morning I ended up carrying Daisy past the line of fire, got her all the way to the back door, set her down, opened the door and in flew Pugsy, “Yeah, it’s time to come inside again!” and both littles ran for the back of the house.

“You can’t let them get away with that,” Nancy warned me. “You can’t tell them they have to do something, let them say, ‘Nope, don’t want to’ and run away.”

The cat sat in the middle of the runway. Idly she honed a toenail.

So Nancy picked up Daisy, I yelled (FIRMLY) at Pugs, and we go both dogs outside.

It is worth noting that in and among this we have Riley, who is bigger than the littles (but still afraid of the cat) and has his own schedule. He can usually get around Bennie (although not always) but he does grant her a wide berth. And while he likes the littles, he does not seem himself as one of them.

“Cheryl.”

“Cheryl.”

“What, Riley?”

“I want to go outside now. The door is stuck.”

“The little just went out, Riley–you could have gone with them.”

“I’m not a little, Cheryl. I wasn’t emotionally ready to go when they went.”

“Right.”

“Cheryl.”

“What?”

“I’m emotionally ready now.”

“The cat is in the kitchen, Rile.”

“Will you protect me?”

“Of course.”

“That’s good, Cheryl, because I told you not to bring her here.”

“I know, Rile.”

“You did it anyway.”

“It’s complicated, R.”

“Well,” he says. “It certainly complicated MY life. Are you going to let me out now?”

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The Joys of Older Companions

We washed Daisy’s Butt today.

This is not a preferred activity for any of us, but Daisy has been having ‘issues’, and this morning we could find her blindfolded; she smelled like used dog food.

We have three dogs. We have Riley, who is a cross (best guess) between a Golden Retriever, a lab and something smaller. In size he is about two-thirds of a Golden, but while his coat has many Golden qualities to it, it is shorter. I have had to clean up the south end of Riley when he was traveling north. He doesn’t appear to mind, particularly; the most difficult part of this task is getting him to stop spinning, since he feels most of my attentions should be directed toward his head. He is double-coated, but again, the hardest part of cleaning him up is getting him to stand still. Pugsy is a chihuahua/pug mix. He had a beautiful black coat that is thick, but quite short, an up-tail (this simplifies everything) and so far he’s never messed himself.

Daisy is a Pomeranian. She is all hair. From the tips of her ears to the tip of her tail…hair. Thick, groomer-ready hair. And she has a rule, which is, DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR. We are allowed to scratch her ears. Pat her gently on the head. Anywhere else awakens the dragon, and the farther down the body we go, the nastier the dragon gets.

But this morning I could find her by smell alone, and I have almost no sense of smell. Nancy was making horrible faces and going, “Oh…gah!”

So I picked up Baby Dog, carried her to the washer in the laundry room, laid her on a towel and rolled her over.

The ‘rolling’ part is not as easy as it sounds. We’ve had a little practice with this ritual, here lately, but still. No self-respecting Pomeranian is every seen belly-up.

So I rolled her over, cradled her in the crook of my arm (to keep her from lunging upward and biting me in the face) and I told her she was a good dog, a wonderful dog, the very best little girl we have (which, unless you count the cat, is absolutely true–although if you include the cat, it may still be a toss-up.) While I did this, Nancy (bless our Nancy) washed and wiped and trimmed and scrubbed the south end of the dog.

The brush made a brief appearance, as did tiny teeth. Having anticipated just such an adventure, I had her firmly in hand.

It is at moments like these that I remember we had to make a heart-breaking decision about a dog we loved. And while I am happy that Daisy feels more at home with us and better able to express her own needs (however misguided they may be) I can’t help thinking that, given her basic disposition, this dog would not have lived to the fine old age of 11 or 12 had she weighed 48 pounds, or been more of an athlete. In her mind, Daisy has savagely mauled me at leave five times by now. Several of these brutal attacks were reminders that I am not allowed to move my office chair while she is sleeping under it. Still, she is the perfect pandemic dog: no one else comes to our house, so no misguided house guest has mistaken for a tiny, adorable little lap dog. And for all of her intent, she has let to leave a mark on me or Nancy, and Nancy has more bravely tested Daisy’s limits.

Nancy has tried o use a dog brush. Yes. On Daisy’s HAIR.

But we cleaned her up. We’ve spent an unusual amount of time of late discussing the pooping habits of our dog, so I thought to myself, “why should I not share this with my readers?” You lucky devils, you.

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Let The Wars Go On…

She’s adorable, isn’t she?

Tiny. I think she weighs around twelve pounds. Maybe less, she’s getting older and she has digestive issues. She’s small and she has this delightful habit of drumming her front feet when she wants something. It makes a delightful little noise on the laminate flooring.

When she first came to live with us she was terrified, to the point that she shut down if we picked her up or even looked directly at her. We would put her in our laps and she would gaze at some fixed position beyond us and endure. We played The Rescuer’s Guessing Game and tried to imagine what her life was like before she came to us. (She lived with an 89 year-old woman who died–not all that horrible, I’m guessing, but still the game is fun.) “We need to work really hard to give this little lady a good home and a real sense of belonging,” we said to each other.

Neither of us had ever had a Pom before. We had no idea what we were restoring.

Daisy is particularly fond of me. I don’t know why. I’m less apt to try to brush her, perhaps. If ever I need to know where she is, I grab a flashlight and look under my rolling chair. I also do this when I hope to get up, or move or really do anything but sit here, frozen in place. Daisy does not like it when I move my rolling chair because Daisy’s favorite place in the whole wide world is wrapped around my chair legs, under the chair.

This complicated by Daisy’s Prime Directive, which is Do NOT Touch My Hair.

Also Daisy does not hear well, nor does she spend her leisure time listening for commands from humans.

It is remarkably difficult to alert a sleeping deaf dog to the fact that you’d like to move, and, therefore, move your chair.

I can drop my hand down and touch her DO NOT TOUCH MY HAIR

I can talk to her, but what Daisy retains of her hearing she has lost to her utter indifference to what I might want to say.

It would not be impossible to teach the dog to avoid the rolling wheels of my chair, I know; but she’s small and she’s old and I suspect somewhat fragile. And she does not like unauthorized chair movements. I still forget, for half a second, and move my chair, and she comes RAGING out from underneath me, flies across the room growling and snarling and bites her brother. Who was sleeping a safe distance from chair wheels because he is a small dog who has no illusions about ruling the world.

I reach down into the darkness to touch her, to alert her to the fact that I’m about to speak or move, and she turns into the MGM lion. She bites. Repeatedly.

To be honest, a Daisy bite is nothing. It took me a while to figure out what it was. If she weren’t growling and snarling and lunging around like hairy pit bull, the bite itself would be like the clawless slap of an mildly annoyed cat. Stop doing that. It’s just a sort of bump against your skin. She has teeth, but no bite power whatsoever. But what she lacks in sharpness and grip she more than makes up for in temper. I touch her to let her know a change is coming, and she turns into a Tasmanian Devil, which is hard on my nerves.

I try so hard to take gentle care of this dog, and in return I can’t move.

I am oddly fond of her. I am flattered by her preference for being wherever I am. On very, VERY rare occasions she will come to me and dance at my feet, and this means she would like me to pick her up and hold her. And this is endearing, but it doesn’t happen often and I don’t look for it because as charming as Daisy can be when she wants to be held, she hates being put back down. So far I’ve done it without waking the lion exactly once. And it worries me, because when a small animal goes feral in my hands, my instinctive response is to drop it. Or, truthfully, throw it.

I’ve never thrown her, but it’s like moving the chair: I have reached the point where I look for her even when I know Nancy just put her outside and then, fifteen minutes later, I just roll the chair out of habit, and there’s this scramble underneath me to avoid death and dismemberment…

And once again, poor, sweet Pugsy gets bitten just for being there.

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North, to Vermont

I have no particular claim on this river, or even this stretch of it, beyond the fact that go there often. A little to the left of this shot is a broken bridge, which has been broken for…I don’t remember how long. Maybe as long as fifteen years. This site is on a dirt road about a mile from any blacktop, and even that is out in the country. The wetlands the river forms is surrounded mostly by farm fields. There are a few houses in the area, but they are a long walk from this particular site. The road itself is used by farm equipment to get to the fields, the occasional wanderer, at least one photographer, and those who fish or kayak or canoe the river. And my car is aging, as am I, so I rarely go out here during the winter. Too cold and too long to walk for help.

I got stuck out there once, not because my car broke down or the road was blocked, but because I encountered a small pig who seemed convinced I had come to save her. I have no idea how she got there. I did eventually get out of my car and consider picking her up and putting her in the back of my car to take her to the animal shelter, but she was probably a fifty pound pig and she had tiny but intimidating tucks, and my knowledge of pig behavior is all but non-existent. I could not figure out what she was doing when she came up to me, and while she wasn’t very big, I am also not very fast or agile, and eventually I climbed back into my car and drove away, leaving her there. I did call animal control (several times) to tell them where she was, but they were ‘busy’.

Mostly I encounter swans, very shy herons, the occasional across-the-water egrets. Red-wing blackbirds. Turkeys. I think I met a Baltimore Oriole once. And ducks. There are a lot of ducks, but ducks are small and quick, and tend to paddle away.

So, to orient you. The river is flowing toward us in this picture. It comes around the bend at the top of the photo and then veers to the left, runs under the dead bridge and then wanders on into several acres of wetlands until it ambles off to the left again and runs under another road. But since I’ve never paddled the river, I’m not quite sure how it gets from the beginning to the end. All these years I have taken pictures around one disjointed (well, several disjointed) chunks of river with no clear idea how they are connected.

In a sudden stroke of brilliance I consulted a map. (Duh.) Mystery solved: I can’t tell a river (it is not a very big river) from a drain. So it doesn’t go where I thought it went at all, in fact, it goes the other way. Because, after all the years I’ve lived in Michigan (my lifetime) I still assume that if I see water flowing along under a road and then a mile or so later find more water flowing along under a road, I assume it’s the same water.

It almost never is.

It is indeed fortunate I didn’t come here in the early 1800s when fur trappers traversed the area in boats up and down the waterways because I would set off for a day’s adventure in my birchbark canoe and my bones would eventually bleach somewhere in the Grand Canyon. I was not blessed with an unerring sense of direction, nor have I ever developed one. I’ve lived in St. Joseph County for twenty-odd years now, and there are still communities here I believe float around from north to south at will.

Not that I have ever stood in place, gazed at the sun and asked myself, “Where is North?” If I knew the answer, it’s not like it would tell me all that much.

PS–The title is an adaptation of an old song popular when I was a kid. Nancy would tell you Vermont is not north of Michigan. Or maybe it is, but it is considerably more east.

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