The Life and Death of Dogs

A few weeks ago, we took Puddin on her last car ride. Her cries had become more frequent, and most nights, she’d cry all night. She shuffled from the bedroom to her dog bed out in the hall every 30 minutes in an attempt to get comfortable. She’d scream out in pain as she collapsed on her bed. She couldn’t even lower herself down, she’d just position herself as best she could standing, and then drop like a rock. Every day we hoped she’d improve, but every night, we would end up drugging her so she could get some sleep.

The vet was giving us some pretty strong medication. Usually, they are very careful because they don’t want to destroy the dog’s intestinal tract. But the vet knew. We weren’t counting on her being alive long enough for it to matter. It was just a matter of how comfortable could we make her on a given day.

We got Puddin from a greyhound rescue in March 2013. Dave wanted a dog for his own. We already had two yorkies, but they are both so closely bonded with me, Dave felt like an outsider. He wanted a dog that was all his, that followed him around the way the yorkies follow me. Our neighbor had a beautiful brindle greyhound, and from the moment he first saw that dog, he wanted one like it. He admired the elegance of them, how they could be so gentle and quiet inside, but outside, how entertaining they are to watch tear around.

Dave contacted the greyhound rescue, Virginia Greyhound Adoption, and they searched for him. Most of the time, the greyhounds come right off the track in Florida and go to their new homes. But they found a dog in a different situation that needed a home. She had already been adopted, but sadly her owners were moving into a retirement home and couldn’t take her with them. She was quiet, didn’t like to run around, and already trained. On the next shipment of racing dogs, they brought her up to us.

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Puddin was shy when she met us. But it turned out, she actually did like to run. In her first week here it snowed, and she had never seen snow before. She raced around in it, having a blast.

She had a few odd quirks. She wouldn’t come into certain rooms. Eventually, she got over her fear of the kitchen, but she was never comfortable in the living room. A few times she darted through it frantically, as though afraid of being caught. At first, she wouldn’t eat unless her dish was held for her. She got over that quick, although we the issue did come up again later.

She was incredibly gentle. She was sweet to everyone and everything, including Poffins who would randomly attack her. On several occasions, Poffins bit Puddin in the side, and dangled from her, like a huge tick. Puddin, surprisingly, would tolerate this behavior, and never fought back.

Puddin with the weiner dogs. The brown one, Nickel, was also in love with Puddin.
Puddin with the weiner dogs. The brown one, Nickel, was also in love with Puddin.

To make up for Poffins’ random boughts of anger, Paxton loved Puddin. He would go up to her and lick her muzzle happily. She was surprisingly less tolerant of this than she was of being attacked. Other dogs loved Puddin, too, to the point of excess. She would tolerate small dogs climbing on her, and loving her for a while, but eventually she’d grow sick of their affection and bark at them. She didn’t bark often, but when she did, it was loud.

One day, this past spring, she had a limp. That in itself wasn’t out of the ordinary. Puddin had broken her leg while racing, and sometimes it still bothered her. She’d sometimes take a bad step, but recover quickly on her own. This time, she didn’t recover. After two weeks, we realized she wasn’t getting better, and took her to the vet. We were expecting something minor, “She sprained a tendon, rest and here’s some medicine.”

Instead, she was given the diagnostic of bone cancer, with three months to live.

We went through a few stages after that. First, we thought, that explains why she sometimes doesn’t feel right. Maybe this is what happened to the beautiful brindle next door, too. She became horribly lame, and had to be put down. Next, it was no, the vet must be wrong, it’s not that bad. She’ll be better soon, and that’ll show them. Puddin was diagnosed using X-rays. It’s not possible to completely confirm bone cancer without a biopsy, which both us and the vet thought would be too much for Puddin. It would basically amount to surgery on an old dog. The lack of the biopsy gave us hope that the vet was wrong.

After going to the vet, Puddin quickly got worse. We went through anger. Puddin wasn’t nearly this bad before going to the vet, maybe they hurt her when they were manipulating her for the X-Rays. Surely a follow up would prove that it wasn’t actually cancer, it was a dislocated shoulder.

It turned out there was a very good reason why Puddin seemed to get bad. As Dave and Puddin were leaving the vet, Dave had to open the hatch in the back to put her in. He realized the car was still locked, so he paused to unlock it. Puddin decided she didn’t need to wait and made a leap for the window in the door. Since it wasn’t open, she just whacked it and fell to the ground. After we discussed this with the vet, we all theorized that she probably fractured her shoulder that day, as bone cancer makes the bones very frail, but at the time, we didn’t realize it. She didn’t act like she was in any pain that day, and we had thought it was just kind of funny she had tried to leap through the hatchback.

The months went by, now with with regular vet visits. Puddin continued to get worse. At first, she would just cry when she stood up, but that developed into crying every time she shifted position. She didn’t want to move to go outside. She had to be convinced to go outside, and then she’d lose her balance as she did her business.

She became very picky about her food. I had to convince her to eat every morning, and every evening. It took anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes to get her to eat. Sometimes, she still wouldn’t eat, and we’d have to shove some down her throat so she could take her medicine. Through it all, she was as gentle and sweet as she had always been. She just loved being with us.

She just loved being with us. Her soft brown eyes would watch us, move around, and sometimes she would bring herself to a yelping standing position to come put her head on our knee. She would wobble and teeter, but she would stand there as long as we stroked her. To get her to lay back down, we’d have to go sit ourselves in her dog bed and invite her back over to lay down with us.

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She grew worse. Every week, we tried to decide if that would be the week to put her down. Every week, we convinced ourselves that maybe she would get better this week. We didn’t want to make a decision we would regret.

Eventually, we had to do it. She was in so much pain, she was losing so much weight, we couldn’t let her keep suffering. We made the appointment and went in. Even while sitting there in the room, we had doubts. We weren’t sure if this was really the right thing to do. The vet came in and talked with us, and that’s when we discussed the possible fracture. Most of the time, bone cancer in dogs is diagnosed because the dog broke its bone. The owner just thinks the dog has a broken bone, but upon x-raying it, they discover the bone cancer that has been weakening the bone.

Now that we figured out why Puddin had gone down hill so fast, we had the added guilt of prolonging her suffering for so long. It’s terrible suffering for the dog to live with fractured or broken bones that will never heal. We knew we couldn’t let her live like this.

The vet gave us the option of staying for the whole procedure or just leaving after the first tranquilizer. Dave didn’t want to watch the whole thing, so we decided to go after the tranquilizer set in. Throughout the whole discussion, Puddin had been standing with her head resting on my knee. We convinced her to lay down on the dog bed we had brought, and sat with her. 20 minutes after the first shot, she seemed sleepy, and it was time to go. She had laid her head down, but the second we stood, she turned and watched us go. Her bright, trusting eyes staring at me was the last I saw of her.

I regret leaving her. It was not fair of me to leave her at her most confusing and terrifying moment because of my feelings. I didn’t want to see the light leave her eyes, but how could I just walk out and leave her to fend for herself with strangers? She didn’t know what was going on, and she just wanted to be with her people. Throughout it all, she just wanted to be with her people.

I wish I could go back, and be there for her. I should have comforted her in her last moments, petted her and let her know she was loved.

When we had told someone that Puddin would eventually have to be put down, they had said that it wasn’t that bad. I don’t know if they meant for them, or for the dog, but they are wrong on so many levels. Our dogs love us and trust us to take care of them. They don’t understand the complexities of what’s going on, or why they hurt, they just want to be with us. I don’t think they understand that we can make them better, or when we can’t. Their motivation to be with their people and to be loved. Even if they are in pain, they just want their people nearby.

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After the initial vet visit. Her shaved shoulder is where the cancer was.

If we kept Puddin alive, she might be in pain, she might be in even worse pain, but she’d be with her people. She’d be loved. She trusted us to take care of her, and we took her to her death.

Her eyes still haunt me. Why couldn’t I have just stayed for a few more minutes and been there for her? Even though it’s totally illogical, I feel like because I didn’t see it happen, maybe she’s still alive. She’s been at the vet’s office this whole time, why haven’t I gone to pick her up?

This is the first time I’ve had an animal put down. Every other animal has died of natural causes, whether old age, or because a predator got them. Granted, I haven’t experienced many pet deaths. I had one dog growing up, she died of old age and was buried on the farm. I had a few hamsters that died of old age, they got little ceremonies in the backyard, complete with tiny cardboard coffins. When the chickens died, at first I dug graves for them, planted flowers on top, and said a few words. More recently, I say a few words, shed a few tears, and then toss the bodies in the woods. I thought I was a hardened farm girl, able to handle things like this.

It’s different when it’s a pet that lived in the house with you, that you spent so much time with, and that trusted you to do the right thing for them. Now that she’s gone, I wonder why I didn’t take more photos. Why didn’t I spend more time with her?

It’s not fair that dogs get such a short time with us. They are here, and then they are gone in a flash. We make them members of our family, they do their best to fulfill the role, but then it’s over. I could get another dog to try to fill the hole in my heart, but it’s not the same. It’s not her, it will never be her, and I’ll never forget how I left her in her most vulnerable moment because of my own selfish feelings.

I have my two yorkies that I have owned since they were puppies. They are 8 years old now, and seem to be in good health, but eventually, a moment like this will come for them. No matter when it happens, it will be too soon. And if I’m this broken up about a dog I knew for just over three years, I can’t imagine how I’ll be when the companions of most of my adult life will be gone.

All I can do now is appreciate the time I do have with them. I’m crawling around on the floor, playing with Paxton more. Poffins is not a team player, but she’s spending a lot more time sitting on my lap. When the time does come, I won’t leave them in their vulnerable moment. I will be there for them because it’s the right thing to do for the dogs that love me.

But doing the right thing in the future will never make up for doing the wrong thing for Puddin.

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Random Things

My dress came in, and it is better than I expected.

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The material is really heavy and just beautiful. It’s so pretty!

Poffins agrees it's quite nice for making a nest on.
Poffins agrees, it’s quite nice for making a nest on.

With Poffins sitting on my dress and me laying out on the floor, I’m pretty sure I’m going to need to get this dress dry cleaned before I even wear it.

I’ve now dug in the arena for 20 hours. I would have done more, but there’s so much rain! I think Virginia is becoming a rainforest.

13 hours in
13 hours in
20 hours in
20 hours in

I brought the arena out by another 20 feet, so much so it was hard to get a picture of it, and I had to stand in a tree. Turns out this is the hardest spot to dig out because I have hit a stash of boulders. (So that’s where they’ve been hiding!! I was warned this might happen by others who have made arenas in my neighborhood!) Luckily, my bobcat can smash right through some of them, or at least reduce their size enough to tediously dig them out. My immediate neighbor had to use dynamite  to get ride of her boulders. But now I have huge potholes and giant hard mounds everywhere. It’s going to be tricky to get this area level.

Berry and Pony decided this was fascinating so last night they broke into the arena and ran around like a bunch of idiots. Berry, who recently became lame and I had to have the vet out, only to discover she did not break her leg, she just had a huge abscess that somehow manifested itself on a trail ride, was covered in mud, and (of course) has a swollen leg, no doubt from playing slip and slide all night. Now I get to see if it’s minor or if I’ll have to have the vet out AGAIN. With this kind of record, I’m not sure if I’ll even be able to show her this year.

THANKS FOR RUINING MY DREAMS BERRY!!
THANKS FOR RUINING MY DREAMS BERRY!!

A long time ago, I mentioned I bought chickens. Not my teenage mutant ninja chickens, but chickens from My Pet Chicken. I don’t think think I said anything, but they arrived several weeks ago, and have been growing up in a little dog crate.

Super babies, pictured with teenage chicken sensation, The Khaki's.
Little babies, pictured with teenage chicken sensation, The Khaki’s.

Going through my photos, it occurred to me that I have literally no photos of the little babies, just this one picture of them in a dog crate where you can’t even see them. Since I’ve been binge watching South Park recently, it reminded me of this episode:

I’m sorry, but these chickens are censored. No one can see them, NOT EVER.

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The Sickness Week (month?) and Moving Forward

March has been kind of terrible, health wise. First my poor little doggie got sick, and had to be hospitalized. She was never spayed, so her uterus became infected and if it had ruptured, she would have died. We got her to the vet in time, but I still feel like a terrible person for not spaying her. It was one of those things I put off because the vet said it was dangerous because she was so little. In retrospect, this is a pile of poo, because the emergency vet said it’s the same as any other dog. I suspect they were trying to justify the $1k spaying charge. Too bad I ended up spending much, much more than that to save poor little Poffins.

Hooked up to the IV after surgery.
Hooked up to the IV after surgery.

I’ll never let that happen again. It’s common in unspayed dogs for this to happen. Now, my tiny little dog is uterus-free, and healthy, but it would have been so much easier if I’d just had her spayed to began with.

She prefers to spend recovery time sleeping in the laundry basket.
She prefers to spend recovery time sleeping in the laundry basket.

The horses, while not sick, had a visit from the vet to get their checkup, shots and dental work done. Pony Man was drugged up, worked on, and then tied to a fence where he literally stood in an absurd position for the next hour while the vet did the horses.

This is the horse equivalent of your college drinking photos being posted on the internet for eternity.
This is the horse equivalent of your college drinking photos being posted on the internet for eternity.

Vintage turned out to be more of a light weight than Pony, and was nearly falling over. I asked the vet if the horses ever fell over when this was done, and she said no. But she became very concerned by Vintage wobbling all over the place.

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Speaking of dental visits, I got a horrible pain in my jaw, starting from when I was in Charleston. I had to go to the doctor, then the dentist, and they tried to pull my wisdom tooth. As in, the dentist numbed me up, gave me the gas, and it still felt like my jaw was splintering into a million pieces. They couldn’t do it with the amount of pain I was in, so now I have to go to the orthopedic surgeon. Unfortunately the surgeon cannot take me right this instant, so as the numbing wears off, I can feel my jaw becoming more painful than it was prior to the attempt to remove the tooth.

On my way to get my tooth pulled, still full of hopes and dreams. Now I'm just full of bitterness and a cut up mouth because I ate dinner while my mouth was still numb.
On my way to get my wisdom tooth pulled, still full of hopes and dreams. Now I’m just full of bitterness and a cut up mouth and tongue because I ate dinner while my mouth was still numb.

I also will never get the gas again, because it made me feel so sick and gross. Ugh.

In addition, I got sick over the weekend, starting suddenly on the trip to the zoo on Saturday, and preventing any other fun activities. I slept from the moment I got home until Monday morning, when I had to go back to work, still feeling awful.

That still pales in comparison to my poor little Poffins. How could I let this happen to her?! Just look at that face!

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She looks just like Simba from the Lion King!

And now I’m suddenly realizing I have to run a 5k in three weeks. Somehow, I forgot to do any training for that. It’s not really a difficult distance, but I use it as a motivator to get moving. So now it’s time to get moving, and lose the weight I stored up over the winter (just like a bear!). I have three weeks to gain some kind of stamina.

One thing I stopped very suddenly is drinking diet soda. This started abruptly, as in, I was drinking some diet soda, and then put down the can mid-drink. The aforementioned jaw pain was made excruciating because of the soda. I think I may even have let out a little scream. Now it’s been a week since I have had any soda. My water consumption has gone up dramatically. I would say that I feel amazing, but I actually don’t, because I’m sick, but I don’t think that’s the water’s fault (…or is it?!)

I am also super amazed with my newest purchase. A mountain bike!!!

trek mountain bike
Yes, I did make this purchase when snow was on the ground. I also tried to ride in the snow. This is not such a great idea.

Dave has one, too. So far, we have taken rides around the country roads. They are just gravel though, and I’m excited for an actual trail through the woods. Of course, the first weekend the weather agreed with this, I got sick, so hopefully next weekend, or if we have some time after work.

I also just purchased this Bikini Body Guide. I’ve heard good things, so I was to try it. I’m pretty good at following instructions, so I think this will work out well for me. I’ll post a review to let you know what I think.

I just bought a bunch of salad, veggies and fruits, so I feel pretty complete in my tools for getting ready for my 5k(s).

Anyone else gearing up for fitness goals?

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Poffins the Destroyer

I am in the process of setting up a craft room in the basement. I’m really excited about it and I’ll be so happy to show it off when it’s all set up. But in the meantime, I was organizing ribbons into a box when I dropped a ball of twine. Poffins, my vicious little yorkie, seized it.

yorkie playing

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How to Cut Your Dog’s Hair

For the first time, I am posting this exclusive “How to”. I have knowledge, and I am a generous person, willing to share this knowledge.

I have small, hairy dogs.

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Many people I know also have small, hairy dogs. When we discuss our small, hairy dogs, the topic of haircuts frequently comes up. One of the problems of small, hairy dogs is that they require frequent hair cuts as their hair just keeps growing and growing. If you wait too long to get their hair cut, its gets messy. Sticks and leaves will stick to their hair, as well as poop. It is not fun to remove poop stuck to dog hair.

I cut my dog’s hair. I started doing it because it’s expensive to get dog haircuts every 8 weeks. I don’t even get my own hair cut more than twice a year. I paid $70 a few times before I decided it was not worth it. A set of dog clippers only costs about $120. It couldn’t be that hard, I thought.

And it’s not. It’s awkward at first, but practice makes perfect. I’m still not an expert, but I’m pretty good, if I ask myself. So here is my guide to cutting your small, hairy dog’s fur.

Things you will need:

– Dog clippers. As I said, they cost around $100, more or less. I don’t know how to pick them though, I’m on my second pair and it makes weird noises. I probably should do some kind of maintenance on them. I just oil them occasionally.

– A compliant dog. My dog, Paxton loves getting his hair cut. He lays down and makes himself comfortable while I do one side, then he flips over for me to do the other side. He is sensitive around his paws and his face, but he’s small enough that I can out muscle him. My other dog is tiny and weak. I can easily hold her in place.

– An easy to clean area. I choose my kitchen because it already  needed cleaning. The floor that is, I walk through there after walking in the pasture, so think literal dirt and leaves. Lose the thought of flies and cockroaches.

– Pants that are either easy to clean, or you don’t mind being covered in dog hair. I think dog hair is partially made out of glue, because that stuff sticks to you and will not come off. You will be covered.

Put on your dog hair cutting pants and move to your easily cleaned area. I choose my old blue workout pants in my non-photographic kitchen. WP_20141108_003I picked my first victim. Since he actually likes his hair getting cut, he’s not much of a victim. Until I get to his paws and face. Then the desperate struggle to get away starts.

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Catch your dog. If you’re not sure how to do this, good ways are to trick him with a treat, trap him in a bathroom or closet, or pretend you’re doing something really interesting to get his attention. Luckily my dog gets really excited when I pick up my grooming bag because it means it’s time for him to get pampered. So tip one is to make sure your dog likes being groomed. I don’t know how to do this however, other than perhaps make your dog really itchy. Maybe cover him in cornstarch.

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Have your clippers ready. I choose this pair of clippers because it was pink and it seemed like a reasonable price. I don’t put any of the covers on it because I never figured out how to attach them. It always seems like they are not the right size. I don’t know why this is. I just use the clippers at their default setting which seems to be “very short”.

Place yourself and your dog in a comfortable position. Paxton likes to rest his head on my leg. I think it adds to the pampering experience.

Turn on the clippers, get over the loudness, and start cutting. Just slide the clippers down the back, with the grain of the hair. Don’t go against it. That makes it cut way too close, and can give your poor pup razor burn.

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Just repeat for the next half hour or so, rotating the dog as needed. Get all the way down to the base of the tail, and down the legs. You don’t want your dog to have to walk around with a bushy butt or pantaloon legs.

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They get squirmy around the legs and face. Their faces have whiskers which make them very sensitive. I have to rotate Paxton and hold him to keep him still to do it. Even then, I usually don’t get it all. The real trick here is to not expect perfection.

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Just get it the best you can. Do a touch up later, if you care enough. I usually don’t care enough.

And then give up! You’re done! Now you have one happy dog!

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And enough hair to make a dog effigy, or try some black magic!

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So remember the tricks to doing this:

1. Have a dog that doesn’t mind getting its hair cut.

2. Be prepared for dog hair everywhere.

3. Be physically stronger than your dog.

4. Accept that your dog will be weird looking until you cut it again… and probably after that too.

And there you go, that’s how you do it. Just pick up your clippers, and get to work! Just think of the happy dog you will have afterward!

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And be prepared to clean dog hair out of your lint collector.

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