Monday, September 28, 2009

The Canine Chronicles, Cast of Characters Take 3

If anyone has read my other posts, I am sure it would be very evident that our new little porch guest did not get up and amble away the next morning, happy to be going back to his "home". In fact, he got up and ambled all right; right after the kids when they went to the bus stop and stood patiently and adoringly looking after them as they waved goodbye, probably all the while hoping that their mom had rescued yet another pet for them to love. As soon as the bus moved on down the road, the dog was back on the front porch curled up as if he had been there all along. Upon seeing him still there when he left for the day's route, Bob sighed and said "I knew it; here we go again." I quickly reassured him that this was not my intention and that I was going to call Paws and Claws and the newspaper as soon as he drove out of sight to try to find out where this poor dog belonged; I was convinced that someone had to be looking for him and that it would be a great thing to reunite him with his owner. That was what this was all about in truth; I was convinced that he had gotten lost somehow and someone must surely be missing him. He wasn't the cutest little thing obviously; we later figured out he must have been lab mixed with basset hound as all his legs were bowed and turned inward. He was the most god-awful dog to look at almost to the point of being cute because he was so ugly! I quickly posted him everywhere I knew to post him including putting an ad in all the papers; in the meantime though, he could not keep living on the front porch so of course, I brought him in and cleaned him up with a bath and a collar and turned him out to join the other dogs. I should really have realized how misguided I was in thinking I would ever be seeing that dog leave. He ended up going to clinic after clinic at the pet stores for adoption. We would dress him up with a little kerchief and he would go with the Paws and Claws folks and sit for hours waiting for someone to adopt him. They had given him the name by this time of Little Dog. He really was not that little weighing in at about 45 pounds, but I guess compared to my others, he was little! After some time had passed, I finally got a phone call from the ad I had posted in the paper and the fellow said that he knew I was describing a dog that had lived next door to him because I had nailed his description; there could not possibly be 2 dogs that had these unusual characteristics. He then proceeded to tell me that he had gone to the house, knocked on the door and showed the owner the paper exclaiming exuberantly "I think this lady found your dog". He told me on the phone that the woman looked like she'd seen a ghost and then began muttering and proclaiming she did not have a dog, never had had a dog. Once he started to look about at the inside of her house, he began to feel very upset at the thought of returning ANY dog to this situation and he told me he was convinced that she had tried to do something terrible to the dog; perhaps she took him somewhere and dumped him or tried to do something bad to him. He was none too happy when he called me at the prospect of this dog going back there and begged me not to return him. He kept telling me that she definitely did not sound as if she wanted the dog back, so any home I could procure for him would be better than what he had been living in. Well, that was a sad turn of events and in retrospect, I probably should have turned the woman in. I could not imagine, however, turning this sweet dog back to someone like this though so began now in earnest to try and find him a home. But no one wanted him! One Saturday after he had been making the pet store circuit all day long, I had dropped by the last store to see how it was going, hoping and praying that someone would have taken pity on the poor thing and given him a home. On approaching his little caged area, there he sat, alone, hopeful, just looking at everyone with his sad eyes as if to say "What's wrong with me? Why doesn't anyone want me?" I was so upset when I saw him sitting there all alone and knowing the chances were nil that someone was going to adopt him. When I went up to talk to the gals to see how they had done with him, they let me know they had had 1 request for him but that couple wanted to bring him into an unfenced yard and then stake him out while they were at work all day. There was just no way that they were going to let the couple adopt him and if they had, I'm sure I would have spoken up there and then for him. While I was standing there feeling so dejected at all my pointless efforts to find him a good home, Bob had come up behind me and he put his arms around me. He whispered close to my ear "We'll just take him and keep him; he's only half a dog anyway so what's the harm?" How could someone not love a man like this with such a big heart? It wasn't that I wanted this dog in particular or that I had been maneuvering to get him; it was just too sad that no one else wanted him and I hated to see him not have a loving family. Thus Pele joined the pack (Jon named him after the soccer great because of his legs; how ironic). He turned out to the most loyal, grateful dog I have yet to encounter and I have to believe when he finally died just a few years ago, he must have been upwards of 17 years old.

We now were a 4-dog family again and off we went to give the kids the news. Not long after our decision to keep little Pele, however, I noticed that all my dogs were scratching and scratching in a way that was not indicative of fleas. Rather, this was some sort of skin condition that was turning from bad to worse as Molly especially began to lose big chunks of hair and skin from her legs. I took her to the vet to find out what it could be and as luck would have it, MY luck at any rate, they all had mange see link. Could I possibly ever catch a break? Bob of course was overjoyed when I came home and gave him the good news; I'm sure Pele had brought it into our midst and now we were in a terrible situation having 4 dogs, it being winter, and treatments being mandatory in the form of dips, medications and salves. At first, nothing was working and the dogs were becoming more and more tattered looking; we were afraid we were going to have to shave all 4 of them and then keep them indoors until their hair grew back! Finally, a friend of mine who was a vet decided to take them all to her clinic and bathe them all repeatedly while we bombed and washed everything we could find AND burned the wooden dog house. After about a 3-day stay at the vet's, finally we got the mites eradicated and then all that was left was treating the individual dogs' bare patches with creams and medicines 4 times a day! At least we finally got it under control and eventually the dogs did heal up.

Somewhere along the way in all this madness, when we were a 4-dog family, I had read an article about making your own dog treats. As an aside, I do not love to cook; I am in LOVE with cooking among other things and if there is a recipe to be made, I usually find it and give it a try. Well, combining my love for my dogs with cooking was just too much for me and I had to try it. I thought it would be so neat to be able to create biscuits and cookies for them to enjoy, lovingly made with the freshest ingredients; much like I cooked for my family. One day when I was recovering from bronchitis and was supposed to be taking it easy, I decided to go ahead and just whip up some liver cookies that I found the recipe for. I set about throwing those together, popped them in the oven and then proceeded to set them on the counter to cool. I went back to reading on the couch where I was when I heard the back door open, then close and figured Bob had come in from the backyard. I really did not give it much thought until I heard a muffled "What the HECK is in these?" obviously being spoken around a mouth full of something. I just had time to process the thought "There is no WAY he ate those" and then I thought again "What are the chances?" Bob is now gagging full bore and proceeding to spit out the food into the sink, muttering, cursing, saying all kinds of interesting things as he spits and spits to get the food out of his mouth, running water, gulping down glasses full, trying to wash the taste out of his mouth! By now, I've started to laugh but the bronchitis has gotten the best of me and I begin to cough and cough so that I can't get a word out for the coughing and he is STILL spitting and gagging, slurping up water like his tongue was on fire. He is just shuddering at the taste in his mouth and when I finally am able to croak out "Those were liver cookies for the DOGS" it was probably better that he did not know! Then he began to yell in earnest "How could you put those things on the counter and not put a SIGN on them to not eat them?" I'm holding my sides now from laughing and I can't believe that he really expected me to post a sign that there was "dangerous" food on the counter! I finally am able to speak again and proceed to offer up the thought that perhaps the smell in the kitchen might have clued someone in that they were not your "run of the mill" cookies, and that furthermore, people ought not to be running around sticking things in their mouth that they have no idea what they are for! Then I asked him if he wanted some kibble to go with his cookies or maybe a nice big fat juicy bone. I do not think I was making many points. Nor was I with the barking noises I made the rest of the afternoon and evening. Or the reference to hoping he didn't lift his leg on my plants! It was just too easy to get material from the whole episode. You would think that he learned to always ask after that when he spied something on the counter but unfortunately, he did not!

During the time we had the labs as well, I took up soccer at the ripe old age of 38 and began jogging in between games to get my endurance up. It seemed logical to me to take the labs as they needed the exercise and as I did not jog very fast, it was okay for Molly. One fall day, one of the kids had a soccer game at the local junior high school.  I decided to go take the girls for a run, then end up over at the game so that I could ride home with Bob and the kids in the van. I made my circuit and got there a little worse for the wear but feeling good that I'd worked out and worked them out as well. It was a beautiful sunny day and I flopped down on the ground to watch the game and cool down. I became so engrossed in the soccer game that unfortunately I never noticed what was going on around me; unfortunately, the labs did. There was apparently a dog at the other end of the field and they definitely spied it. I had the leash wrapped around my wrist and was just sitting there minding my own business when suddenly I was jerked prone onto the grass and I was moving; far faster than I wanted to be as they were literally pulling me down the field trying to go after the dog who was coincidentally running away! Someone finally saw me being pulled along like I was body surfing on the grass and stepped in; they stopped the game (much to my child's horror) and had to make sure that the goofy lady was untangled from the dog mess and that she wasn't hurt! Oh brother - my pride was killing me! I had grass stains all over my shirt; I'm surprised I did not have grass in my teeth, and my left arm felt at least 2 feet longer than my right. Not to mention the whole front of my body was tingling from the "grass burn" I'd just received from chest to toe! Everyone was laughing and laughing as they helped me to my feet; all except my child! She already was not crazy about soccer and now this. At least no one was seriously hurt!

One year for Christmas, my daughter for some reason decided I needed a cockatoo. I had had a canary for a few years and was sad when he had died but truly, with all the dogs, I had not really thought much of replacing him with another bird. It turned out that this bird was hand raised and unfortunately for me, since I was the only one home all the time doing medical transcription, tag, I was it. The bird would scream nonstop if you did not take him out of the cage and perch him on your shoulder, so most days, I felt like Pirate Audrey - Ahoy Matey! All I needed was an eye patch. I actually began to have neck problems because I had to keep my neck turned a certain way to keep him from pecking on my headset while I tried to listen to files. It was truly a little aggravating but being the Pet Woman that I claim to be, how could I complain? I also went to the pet store and of course got books on how best to raise this bird that was so kindly given to me but the most important point that kept standing out glaringly in all the books was that these birds were NOT recommended in a household with dogs but most especially BIRD dogs. Hmmm...unfortunately as I looked from the book to my dogs, all 4 of them coincidentally being bird dogs, I had a sinking feeling. I pointed this out repeatedly to everyone in the household; that our little cockatoo was never and I mean never to be left alone with the dogs and we should never leave the cage open so that he could have "free range". It was a lot of pressure but I felt certain that I could probably keep the bird safe; or so I hoped. If you could just forget the having a bird on your shoulder scenario and the crook in my neck problem, it was not all bad I guess. He was a very clever bird and could be very entertaining, when he wasn't squawking! One night on our anniversary, we had gone out to dinner with some friends and then had gone back to their house for a glass of wine and visiting when the phone rang and as soon as I heard my daughter's sobbing, I knew. She had been washing the 2 labs to try and earn extra spending money and on bringing one of them out from the bath and drying the other, in their post-bath exuberance, the dogs had spied the cockatoo in the cage and proceeded to grab the cage and get enough of a handle on it to cause it to shift. One thing led to another and before Katie could stop them, the cage fell apart and both dogs had trapped the bird.  All it took was one bite and little Peetie was no more. I don't know who I felt sorrier for, my poor little girl or the poor little bird. Hindsight is still 20/20 and I guess the book was right - cockatoos do not do well with bird dogs!

Seasons come and seasons go and unfortunately, we lost Salty after he had lived to be a very old man; oh we missed him when he died! He was just the sweetest of fellows and how he loved to ride in the van with Bob. I think he must have been upwards of 15 years old as well when he died as he had come to us at the age of 6 or more. Then we lost Mariah to cancer as she had a burst lesion in her shoulder that had already spread so the thought of amputation was not even a consideration.  Her quality of life would have been so diminished it did not seem fair to her. She was the ultimate ball dog, the ultimate swimmer and to take that away from her would have been nothing short of cruel. She was our youngest tragedy as she only lived to be 6 years old but we made sure her last days were filled with trips to the water she so loved and her days were filled with the sprinkler and the ball. We decided with Mariah to have her put down at home in the backyard where she loved to be so she would not be frightened as her cancer had spread to her brain already; she was unable to do as much as she had just a short time before. My vet friend came over and did the deed, and although we all sobbed our hearts out, it was the most humane way to do such a sad thing. She was not scared and she knew she was loved as she drifted off to sleep hopefully to a world where there was no more pain and she could run happily forever. I think that is the kindest gift we can give to our pets that have loved us so thoroughly; to give them peace in their suffering and to help them if at all possible not to be afraid.

Kodi came into our lives shortly after losing Mariah and then the malamute moments started; we were never the same again. I could probably write an entire book on how Kodi impacted my life and our lives in general with his personality and his "quirks". He was a very intuitive dog though and did seem to sense when he needed to appear smaller as in approaching children or an elderly person and then at other times, his exuberance was overwhelming. He seemed to have a penchant for jumping on my poor daughter and always it seemed when she was wearing white! He definitely required a firm hand (or a knee to the chest) to convince him that certain things were not appropriate at times but at other times, he was such a quick study of situations that he was amazing. When you most needed him to go softly, he did and that was what remained the most important thing. I think he lived to send Bob into fits though with his chewing antics and never lost that knack even after 10 years. If a remote was left on the coffee table at "Kodi level", it was meant for him and I would hear "KOOOODDDDIIIII" being blasted from upstairs; I would know he had done it again. One night towards the end of his life, Bob had taken out leftovers for our dinner later and had them all lined up on the counter in the kitchen in their respective containers. I was downstairs working and Bob was upstairs working. He said he vaguely heard a little rustling for a moment in the kitchen and he thought I had come up to start fixing dinner. The next thing he knew, on walking into the kitchen, all the containers were lined up on the floor and all of them were EMPTY! Kodi had cleaned out the turkey breast, the beef, the potatoes, the BROCCOLI, and everything else but he had not left a mess or a crumb anywhere and all the containers were licked clean as a whistle. He was lying very contentedly on his bed and Bob could have sworn he heard him belch quietly! He came flying downstairs to let me know we had nothing left but all I could do was laugh about it. He was one clever dog. I had been in the kitchen before and preparing something only to hear only a "pop" and turned just in time to see him very casually pulling a roast or something off the counter. He was so tall that he had no trouble at all reaching up to grab something; most of the time he was excellent about leaving things alone. But then again, he was a dog and a very high energy dog at that especially with the steroid treatment for his Addison's.  You just had to be aware and take steps to help him succeed rather than fail. After the above gluttony he enjoyed the one evening at our expense, I actually was happy for him just in that he got to enjoy a full meal deal.  He had been on a special diet for so long with his disease that it probably was a real treat for him to have "indulged". The nicest part was that it didn't even make him sick. I was most grateful that he did get to grow old with Denaya and that he had the good fortune to somehow "tame" the shrew so to speak as without Kodi and Kodi's love for her, I do not think she ever would have turned out to be the dog that she is today suffering such abuse and neglect so early in her young life. That tale to come next.

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