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Doodlebug's last day

Doodlebug’s last day

Many things have happened since the last time I wrote. I have been at my new job for over a year now. A year ago July, we said goodbye to my mother-in-law. This was after losing David in April of the same year.

My father was diagnosed with stage 4 bladder/prostate cancer last November. He underwent major surgery April 9, and is getting used to a “new normal” without a bladder. His last PET scan showed no cancer and we are very grateful to still have him with us.

Most recently, we have bid farewell to our big, sweet Doodlebug. Wilbur and I were on our way to the Twin Cities for vacation. The morning we were supposed to leave, I noticed a large lump on his front leg at the joint below his knee. I scheduled a vet appointment thinking he had sprained it, and my friend Sarah volunteered to take him in for us. We left as planned Thursday morning, September 4. We got to Hoven, SD, where we were visiting St. Anthony of Padua Church. My phone rang as we were getting out of the car and it was the vet. Doodle was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and it had eaten through most of the bone. We turned around and came back home.

After much research and discussion, our family decided it was time to let him go. None of the options were good. Amputation at his age, followed by chemotherapy, would be hard for him to tolerate given his arthritis and colitis. Even with both, the survival rate is only increased by months. Osteosarcoma moves quickly, with metastases in the lungs by the time a tumor is noticed. At the sunset end of his lifespan this just seemed like more than we could ask of him. Without the amputation he was headed for a painful break of his leg. We couldn’t take that chance, and have to take him to the vet in pain and fear for euthanasia. So, on Monday morning, September 8, we took Doodle and Daisy to the vet. We didn’t want her to be frantically searching for him when we came home without him. They gave us plenty of time to love on him, then a port was put in his leg.

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Waiting for her buddy to come back into the examining room.

They spread out a large blanket on the floor and Doodle and Daisy laid down next to each other. The drug was administered and he drifted away from us. No pain (the narcotics took care of that) and no fear. He was surrounded by the people who loved him, with Daisy at his side. We remained for a time, then when we got up to leave, Daisy calmly walked out of the room. Earlier, when they had taken him out to put the port in his leg, she cried pitifully until he returned. This time, she knew he was gone and she was able to take her leave. I am crying as I type this. We miss our big, goofy, insistently affectionate, gentle boy.

When we got home from the vet, we decided to take a hike up Harney Peak in Doodle’s memory. We couldn’t stay home and stare at his empty dog bed. I couldn’t face cleaning up the fur in the corners or on the stairs. I still haven’t cleaned out his crate. It was a beautiful day and a hike would do us all good. Most of all, it would keep Daisy moving forward in her mind. When she is stressed out, she seems to get stuck, for lack of a better way to explain it. We told lots of “remember when” Doodle stories. We laughed and cried and hiked. It was a healing time.

Taking a break on the hike.

Taking a break on the hike.

Daisy has handled his absence better than I had feared. Still, she seems sad and withdrawn. Some of the things that she was doing with no problem have started to become difficult for her again. She trembles more than usual. We realized how very much she depended on him to go first. From going outside to getting in the car, she would happily follow him. Today is the first day she has made noises to come back in the house after a potty break outside. The first morning after his death, it was very cold. I let her out, then started to do a couple of things, not checking the door. I looked out and she was sitting outside the door, soaking wet from the mist and shivering pathetically. It was always Doodle’s job to let us know when they were ready to come back in.

We started a search for another retriever. We can’t replace our beloved Doodlebug, but our house seems so empty without the love and positive energy of a retriever-in-residence. Wilbur located a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Chuck, being fostered in Palisade, NE. We filled out the forms for the rescue and waited for an interview. It was tough not to get our hopes up too high, since he sounds like a perfect fit for our family, and there were several other families who also wanted him. We were approved!! Chuck (probably renamed Kirby) will be coming to live with us in a few weeks!

Keep an eye on this space and I will try to keep you updated on the adventures of Daisy and Kirby. We plan a slow introduction and adjustment period. Daisy is good with male dogs so I am hopeful that the transition will be fairly smooth. Rapid City and the surrounding area is the perfect place for a water dog. I think Miss Daisy might even follow him into the water (if he goes first).

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Long time, no post

Fireworks

Fireworks

Between kitchen updates, family visiting, and my new job, it has been a long time since I’ve had time to post anything. We survived (barely) the 4th of July. It started around the first, and went through until the seventh or eighth. I think people finally ran out of fireworks. With all the fireworks and the frequent thunderstorms, Daisy practically lived in her Thundershirt. I think I need to get a new one. We had to dry it in the dryer a couple of times since she HAD to roll in the mud between storms. I didn’t want her to be without it so we didn’t have time to wait for it to line dry. She also rediscovered her corner in the family room. That was home base for her when she first came to live with us. I need to block it off again so she spends more time with us. I didn’t have the heart to restrict her access during all the loud bangs.

Daisy’s new thing is riding in the car. She went from hating it to insisting on it. She is the first one out the door, she pushes open the garage door if it isn’t shut completely and she waits outside “her” car door for us to let her in. She still rides on the floor but now she climbs on the seat next to Doodle if we stop anywhere. They have taken to going with us in the evening if we make an “Armadillo’s Run.” We get ice cream cones then walk around downtown until the cones are finished and we go back home.

Our Miss Daisy is still very reserved with strangers. Sometimes, though, she surprises me. We were at the hardware store and she went right up to a young guy and licked his hand. He petted her while we talked. I found out he also has a pit bull. I’ve never seen her that friendly with a complete stranger.

Our evening walks have resumed since the fireworks are finished. Her leash manners have greatly improved over the past year. I’m wondering if it is just maturity as much as anything. She’s now about 3 years old. That seems to be the age where our other dogs have settled down and demonstrated consistently better behavior. No matter what the cause, I’m grateful for the slack leash with her trotting along happily at my side.

Two steps WAY back … and a rant

I really wish I could see inside Daisy’s head. I wish I knew why she is so afraid of some things and not of others. Her biggest fear seems to be of children. She has made exceptions for a few to whom she has been slowly and carefully introduced, but on the whole, they terrify her.

Last night we decided to go for a walk. Wilbur wasn’t with us, which makes the whole process that much more stressful. Doodle has colitis. Walking makes him think he needs to poop. Frequently. Every other block. Managing the two of them and the constant need for plastic bags gets to be a bit much. Nevertheless, it was a fine evening and we set out. The dogs were pretty well-behaved and I was relaxed. Then, on our way home, we saw her — a little girl, about 9 yrs. old or so, on a bike. Daisy started to tremble and to pull at the leash. We crossed the street and once again fell into an easy walk. She crossed the street and was right behind us. Daisy again began to react. I asked her not to follow us since Daisy is frightened of children, and one more time we crossed the street. So did she. I could see that we were not going to lose this child until (hopefully) we crossed the major intersection at Sheridan Lake Road. Doodle needed to stop before then. Of course. Daisy sat on command, shaking, and dribbling urine. The little girl stopped right behind us. For the second time I asked her to leave us alone. No response.

We finally reached Sheridan Lake Road and she didn’t cross with us. By this point our pleasant walk was spoiled and I was just focused on not letting Daisy drag us home. We were all relieved to see our yard.

Today Daisy has been hyper-reactive. She has shaken and cowered more than I have seen in a long time. A couple of times she has looked at me as if she was trying to remember who I am and whether I am friend or foe. Tonight she has finally curled up by my chair and is asleep.

Parents — do you teach your children that not all dogs love them and are glad to see them? Do you teach them to ask before interacting with strange dogs, and to respect the answer given? So far Daisy is just fearful and not fear-aggressive. I can’t say for sure that this will always be the case. I do my best to keep her from having to handle situations that would push her into her reactive zone. We try to introduce her to scary things gradually and with many reinforcements. Unfortunately, the combination of a strange child and a bicycle was too much for her to even want one of her favorite high-value treats.

I can do my best to control my dog. I cannot control your child.

When is enough, enough?

Daisy looking into the camera

Such an intent look!

Daisy is a happy dog. She loves her home, her buddy, Doodle, her people, her toys… She loves to go for walks if Doodle comes along. She is mostly okay with riding in the car. She still does not like new people, unfamiliar surroundings, or loud children. With the Thundershirt and some encouragement, she can be relatively comfortable in new places, although I can see the relief on her face when we get back home.

When I started to work with her, my goal was to get her to be “normal.” I wanted her to happily accompany us on outings. I wanted her to be friendly and outgoing. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s fair. I am afraid of heights. I am somewhat claustrophobic. I would have to be heavily sedated to enter a cave. Despite these things, I lead a happy life.

I worry about what people think when Daisy starts to tremble. Do they think we abuse her? Do they feel sorry for her? Do they judge me as a dog owner? I want her to be a breed ambassador. That wonderful, friendly pit bull who defies all the breed stereotypes. But who is this for? Certainly not for Daisy. She is so much happier and healthier than when she arrived. Her coat is shiny. Her body has filled out. Her tail wags most of the time. Pretty much all the time when she is at home. Her curiosity is becoming stronger than her urge to hide. Maybe this is enough. She is such a great dog, and we love her so dearly. I would like for others to be able to see this side of Daisy. They might just have to take my word for it.

My daughter works with disabled adults. She celebrates their achievements and is respectful of their limitations. They are encouraged to try new things and to succeed. They are allowed to retreat and regroup when they have had too much, otherwise there are “behaviors.” I am learning to read Daisy’s reactions and to keep her below threshold, when we will have a meltdown. When I haven’t respected her limits, she loses some of her trust in me. That hurts us both.

Thundershirt!

Thundershirts

Medium pink vs medium grey

We’ve had pretty good results so far with Daisy’s Thundershirt. It hasn’t made her fearless, but the decrease in anxiety allows her to go places she would have been unable to go before. The biggest change I have noticed is the way it helps keep her trembling under control. She is between sizes, being a medium-sized dog with a tiny waist and a big chest. The medium grey shirt fits her fairly well. I sent the company an email inquiring as to size difference between the plain grey style and the snazzy pink. I was assured they were no different in size, so I ordered one. As you can see, the pink medium is much smaller than the medium grey. Sigh.

I didn’t get the shirt sent back within the return window, although they were very nice about allowing a return, since it is a monogrammed shirt. Here’s the deal: if you are reading this blog and you have a rescue named “Daisy,” or have a rescue dog who would fit into a smaller medium Thundershirt, and want to cover up the monogram, I will send it to you with Daisy’s compliments. We would like another precious pup to experience the calming effect of the Thundershirt.

Just let me know if you would like it sent to you. Please do not obtain it for resale. That would make us (and Karma) unhappy!

The calm after the storm

Daisy was right, I have been very preoccupied lately. Two weeks ago tomorrow, April 5, 2013, my brother-in-law breathed his last. He has been very ill for quite awhile. He had been placed in hospice care just a few days before that. Diabetes is a cruel thing when not managed. His body just couldn’t function anymore.

That same day, I had my final interview at Rapid City Public Library, with the director. We were awakened to a phone call early in the morning from my other brother-in-law, Chuck, to let us know that David was gone. I packed a few things and started some laundry, then went to work. At lunchtime, I had my interview. After work, I returned home and finished packing. We finally got out of Rapid City around 7 in the evening, making it to Sioux Falls shortly before 2 am. Saturday we drove the rest of the day to Toluca, meeting with the rest of the family and David’s pastor right after we got there. Monday morning was David’s funeral.

Rapid City was receiving record snowfall starting Tuesday. We couldn’t beat the storm, so we stayed for the Wednesday funeral of Edna Mann. She was the mother of Wilbur’s childhood friend (and our best man), Scott. It was good to catch up with people we hadn’t seen in years, even though the circumstances weren’t ideal. We shared lots of tears, laughter, and memories over those few days. I got to see my college roommate. Some friendships pick up right where you left off. Although I was anxious to return home, especially since the kids were dealing with the storm on their own, the extra time with extended family was a real blessing.

Thursday and Friday we drove home. While we were on the road on Thursday (I was in the process of passing a semi), I received the call from the library that they were offering me the job. We pulled off the highway to a McDonald’s parking lot so we could notify friends and family (and celebrate a bit)! I needed to give my notice at work on Friday, so I didn’t even go home when we got into town.

Through all of this, Doodle and Daisy were cared for by our kids. Daisy went on a mini hunger strike. Doodle just “kept calm and carried on.” I think his steadiness and lack of separation anxiety is helpful for Daisy. Because he is sure the world is a good place, he is a very good influence on her.

She is contentedly curled up next to me on the couch as I type this. I know she picks up on my moods. I’m hoping that we will settle into a new routine with my new job, and that the lessening of stress on my part will translate to less anxious behaviors on her part. She had chewed a raw spot on her hind leg, but it is nearly healed and she has been leaving it alone.

Rescue goes both ways. These past weeks would have been so much harder without the companionship and love of our fur babies. I never lack for kisses and invitations to play Wubba. My heart lifts when I see the joy with which Daisy greets a snowdrift. There are muddy paws to wipe, fur to vacuum, bones to fill with peanut butter and kibble, and the reward of knowing I make a difference to such amazing creatures. I am a fortunate woman.

Daisy with peanut butter filled bone

There must be more peanut butter in here somewhere

Transformations

It’s spring. Time to take stock of changes.

One year ago we adopted Daisy. Be warned: When you allow transformation in one area of your life, you open the door, and it sneaks into other areas as well.

I had to let go of everything I knew about “having a dog,” and learn new ways of thinking. I needed to get out of my comfort zone and seek help. I needed to love her gently, firmly, patiently and fiercely. In the midst of family changes, with children moving out, and extended family illnesses and accidents, I needed to be steady and calm. Daisy had extensive medical tests to track down the cause of multiple UTIs. We had to travel back to Illinois several times to help with a situation with my brother-in-law’s ongoing medical problems. I drew upon my yoga practice, prayer and the love and strength of friends. In the meantime, Daisy and I worked on clicker training and went to obedience classes. We went for walks and she learned how to play. I learned not to baby her; to keep on even when it seemed like we were getting nowhere; to rejoice in small gains like tail wags and play behavior.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my life was changing in other areas as well. I had been content to wish I could move forward in my career without doing anything more than wishing. I felt stuck. I didn’t do anything to get unstuck. Just like I couldn’t wish Daisy into a more confident and happy dog, I couldn’t wish myself into a different employment situation. I watched her be brave in situations that clearly terrified her. I helped her take baby steps out into the wide world. It was time for me to follow her lead.

I had applied for a job with the public library. I don’t like job application. I avoid making myself vulnerable. I don’t like being the new person. In short, in my own way, I was also sitting in the corner, trembling, too scared to see if the world beyond my safe zone would be a good place. The application process was long. I was plagued with doubts about my age, my abilities, my lack of a diploma in graphic design. The best I could do was to perservere, answering questions to the best of my abilities, and trusting in the process.

I am fortunate to be married to a man who is as patient with me as I am with Daisy. He believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself. He cheers me on when I take baby steps, and rejoices with me when I conquer my fears. Our years together haven’t always been easy. Some of them have been enough to make us consider whether or not it is even worth the fight. Still, 26+ years later, we are a team. The best things are often the hardest things. The biggest joys are a like a precious goblet, containing in them all the tears shed along the way.

Yoga is teaching me to be kind and loving to the body I bring to the mat today. Also to find my edge and to keep expanding it. Gently and firmly. Calmly and fiercely. With a sense of joy and play. Being mindful of my breath, finding strength in my connectedness to the earth and to my fellow travelers. Holding firmly to my center, hugging in to find steadiness, and expanding out in all directions.

Daisy and I both have a ways to go. I have a new job, which will start the 29th of April. Daisy will soon begin more training. I didn’t realize it when we brought her home, but she is the perfect companion on this journey of transformation. Stick with me, Miss Daisy, and we’ll both get to where we want to go. Together.

Daisy shaking hands

Partners

YOU’RE HOME!!

YOU’REHOMEYOU’REHOMEYOU;REHOMEYOU’REHOME!!I thought you’d NEVER get back! LOOK, here’s my bear! SQUEAK the bear! Come get the bear! Throw the bear! SQUEAKSQUEAKSQUEAKSQUEEEEEEEEEAAAAAKK!!

I went straight to work when we got back to Rapid, so I didn’t see Daisy until after work. Wilbur brought her to the print shop to pick me up! She heard my voice, and braved the strange place to come get me. The first time she came to the shop, she huddled in a corner and shook. We practically had to carry her out. None of that today.  She was still nervous about the different smells and machinery and her tail was low. She walked easily on her leash without pulling, even when I took her to the back to clock out. She wasn’t completely herself until we got in the car. When we got home, my face was covered in kisses, and we had to spend some time with Wubba Bear. She has chewed a raw spot on her hind leg we’ll have to figure out how to stop this new habit. Tonight she is curled up next to my chair, looking as contented as can be. I hate leaving her. I’m glad to prove to her that I will always return.

Suitcase Blues

Daisy: Why you get out those suitcases? Can’t you see I’m nervous and scared? Please put them away.

Me: Someday you will learn that I will always come back to you. Your days of being abandoned are over.

Daisy & Deb snuggling on couch

Snuggle time

As far as she has come, we are reminded regularly that she is still dealing with the damage done to her as a puppy. She will be fine, then something will trip a hidden trigger and she will cower or shake. I look at her sweet face and wonder what happened to make her think the world is such a scary place. I have known dogs who haven’t had a day of abandonment or abuse in their lives who are also nervous and shy. Maybe she is just one of those. Although from what I have seen of the breed, this doesn’t seem to be the norm.

Each time she has a good experience, it serves to weaken the fear response. Each time we return home, Daisy has a chance to add to the expectation that we will always return. My prayer is that we are building a solid foundation for this little girl. One that she can use as a base for confidence and happiness.

God made dirt & dirt don’t hurt.

Mom has been way too preoccupied lately. I’ve brought her toys, socks, and my favorite bone. I’m not sure what could be more important than playing with me. I don’t like it. Sometimes she reaches down and scratches me, although if I paw her for attention she makes me go lay on my rug. *rolls eyes and sighs*

This afternoon Dad got back home and played with us in the yard. Dad is the best. He had that funny thing around his neck again. He looks at me from behind it. It makes clicking noises. I was afraid of it at first, but I’m getting used to it. Besides, there is so much to do out here.

Roll baby, roll.

Roll baby, roll.

Even Doodle enjoyed the dirt. I keep telling him it is the BEST.

Doodle with a dirty head.

Rolling hurts my back. I’ll just rub my head in the dirt.

Dad was laughing so hard. I’m not sure what is so funny.

Whatcha looking at?

Whatcha looking at?

Daisy looking up with a funny look on her face.

Hello!

I think I would like it better if he didn’t meet me at the door with a wet towel. It’s just dirt. Silly Dad.

I hope you’re enjoying the warm weather as much as I am.

Daisy

P.S. If you know what’s up with Mom, tell her to quit worrying and play with me!