You know this dog.
This is the dog that greets you from the edge of his yard–never leaving it–as you take your daily walk by his house. He wags his tail for a few pats on the head and a kind word before you travel on your way. After several days, months, and years of this ritual, you notice he watches for you. He greets you and your dogs with respect. He even puts up with the new puppy. You become acquainted with his owners. You express appreciation for this dog who isn’t yours, yet somehow is.
Then, one day, you learn he has traveled on his way.
Yet, you will carry on his legacy.
You will let his owner greet your puppy with a few pats on the head and a kind word. You will hug her as she grieves and shares about her dog’s final days. You will share your own grief about your dog who passed on a few short days before hers. You will celebrate his life with pictures. You will travel on your way with tears, hoping she will one day enjoy new life pulling at the leash.
The next day, you will keep walking. You will stop when a little girl shouts, “There’s Shadow!” You will let her pet your puppy because you know this dog.
You want her to know him, too.
They are together again.
I’d like to believe that–this sentiment the veterinarian technician phrased on Friday, September 16, 2016 while I waited for Zoe’s memorial clay paw to be given to me. I love the idea that as soon as she fell asleep, Doc nuzzled Zoe’s face. Then they played a game of keep-away the way they used to do. I can hear their barking chorus–hers first then his. Or maybe now its reversed. I wonder if she let’s him get on the bed now. I’m certain they will still lick one another’s ears.
I’m just not certain. But, the maybe makes me smile through my tears.
I’m not certain if Shadow will follow his own lead. He may need a canine companion of his own. He may need someone to back up his bark, to lick his ears, to play a little friendly keep-away.
The maybe makes me smile through my tears.
As a dog lover and owner, I have experienced all the phases of my pets’ lives. Yet, some of my own experiences happened while I was in different phases.
My childhood dog, Sandy, lived to be thirteen. My memories with her spanned from the age of four to seventeen. Yet, I was a kid. I was not the primary caregiver. She was my friend and confidant, but I was not the decision-maker about her healthcare needs. All of that changed when I became the primary owner and caregiver.
My husband and I have had the unfortunate experience of having pets die relatively young. Our first dog, Buddy, was diagnosed with hepatitis at age eight. Our second dog, Buster, was put down for biting and a seizure disorder at age four. The most tragic was Rosie. She was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease at nine months. Knowing she would never have a quality existence and that we couldn’t afford her treatment, we had to put her down.
That’s when we acquired Zoe.
Doc was adopted three years later and endured pain from Lyme Disease the entire time we owned him. Bone cancer was a definitive diagnosis. But, even though he was eleven, I didn’t feel we had enough time with him.
Now we face the excruciating reality that Zoe’s life span will be shortened by systematic lupus. To date, she is nine.
I am already seeing her signs of aging, grief, and pain. Yet, I’m still trying to come to terms with how to best care for my aging, hurting friend. Here is a link that helped me. Maybe it will help others, too.
Maybe Zoe knows something we don’t. But, I know this picture would never have happened with Doc.
As much as Zoe and Doc got along, she was the alpha. I remember her staring him off the bed more than once. If we showed attention to him, she was right there asking for the same treatment and a little bit more. They played keep away with toys in the best way. She tried to frame Doc by stealing a sandwich the first few days of his arrival. He was on to her plot when she attempted the same thing with a muffin. They conspired together by sequestering Yeti’s mouse toys in their mouths and asking to go outside. Doc had an over-active guilt complex. He put himself in a timeout whenever Zoe got scolded for “cleaning up” the yard by “picking up” after Doc. So, I have no doubt who instigated the above crimes. Yet, they had a great relationship, and I know she misses her back-up when the doorbell rings.
We know this because she brought Doc’s duck to Dave and whined not long after Shadow joined our pack. Or she knows something we don’t.
Maybe Shadow does, too. He may sense my increased attentiveness to her, but he has upped his own.
Maybe they both know something we don’t know. Which is why she gets off the bed if he wants to be there. I haven’t witnessed any frame-ups or conspiracies or clean-up efforts this time. She is quick to tell him when he has gone too far with his playing, yet she understands he and Yeti need their wrestle time. She does steal his rawhides, but stopped a few weeks ago. In fact, yesterday, I’m convinced she brought him the knotted end of a bone. He was “cleaning” the cat box again.
Which started the week after she let him cuddle up to her on the same blanket at the camper.
Maybe they are just doing the things they do…when they know something we don’t.
On Monday morning, I noticed Zoe was fussing her right back paw, and I saw this.
Ever since her sarcoma, I’ve been checking Zoe’s paws on a regular basis. The surgery site appears to be healing, but the neighboring digit looks lumpy. Her foot pads have been cracked and mottled for several months, too. But, a week ago Thursday, I noticed a gooey layer on the largest pad of her back right paw. This was the result by Monday.
Her foot and forelock are also swollen, and she tucks the hip when she walks. I recalled this was the same leg she had pulled up when coming onto the deck two weeks ago. This is the same leg she stumbled on during our walk last week.
Concerned about cancer recurrence or a contagious infection, I made a vet appointment. The good news is that this is not cancer or an infection. We discussed the other possibility, which can only be definitively confirmed with a tissue biopsy. At Zoe’s surgery follow-up, I had pointed out another possible tumor and expressed I was leery of another sedation and surgery. Respecting my earlier assertion and erring on the side of optimism and caution, the vet started her on antibiotics and pain pills.
By Tuesday, the pustules were open and oozing. The foot pads on her other feet are showing precursors of what is going on with the right back paw. I observed more ulcers by Zoe’s mouth, under her chin, and inside her lip.
I called the vet back, and we discussed that other possibility. My husband and I decided to start her on a steroid treatment and hope for improvement.
The not-good-news is that it is most likely Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
My hands were a bit full in this moment, so picture this.
When my husband fetched Yeti from the boarding kennel on our way home from our camper, he carried Yeti. Translated: Yeti was not in his carrier.
Apparently, he had a little hissy-fit about my husband retrieving him and not “Me-om.”
Yeti endured being held by my youngest for about half the journey, all the while gazing longingly at me with his big blues. Eventually, he made his way over to me.
Shadow is a fabulous car-traveler. He is better than Zoe, who has to be crated and sounds like a chimpanzee whenever we near our final destination. Shadow either sits or sleeps the entire time.
Yet, introduce a cat crawling over to my lap where his nose is resting?
He did try it–a couple play bites. After all, Yeti is his favorite friend. But, a quiet stern “No bite” led to something not even I expected:
A couple soft licks and head-to-head cuddles the rest of the way home.
Trust me…it was a pretty picture.
Like people, dogs can also have allergies. Zoe is one of these cases.
We discovered she has seasonal allergies that appear as ear infections in September. But, she also has a food allergy to chicken. The tell-tale signs of exposure are increased itchiness, darkened skin, and hair loss.
At our vet’s recommendation, we switched Zoe’s food. I tried a lamb-and-rice blend first and thought all was well. But, she was still itchy and blotchy. Reading further down the list of ingredients, I discovered that chicken broth was used as a flavoring agent. So, we had to change foods again!
I have finally settled on a salmon-and-pea blend she loves. I can’t remember the last time she had an ear infection. They make a cat food, too, in case she ever gets into Yeti’s food. I wish there was a puppy version. But, we will have to settle for a lamb-and-rice food with a seafood flavoring for Shadow until he is a little older. By the way, his skin and ears look fabulous since we put him on a non-chicken-based diet.
I’m not a vet, but I highly recommend changing your pets’ diets if allergy symptoms occur. It may cost more in food bills, but it will save on vet costs and make your pet healthier and happier.