My New Doggie

In August, I became a doggie-mommy again.  I adopted another Golden-retriever mix, who has many Aspen-like similarities.  We named her Dixie, as she was found on a Tennessee highway. Actually, I tend to call her Dixie-Doodle a lot…..to represent her Southern heritage and her new Yankee Doodle home.

I announced in July that I would be adopting her. There was no forethought, no discussions. I didn’t ask permission. It felt like the right thing to do and I was doing it. 

Not a single person asked me WHY I was adopting a new dog.

I’ll assume it was one of two logically-concluded reasons–(1) she looks so much like Aspy, that OBVIOUSLY Anita had FINALLY found an Aspen-replacement, and/or (2), anita is such an animal lover, that she must have felt the need to give another dog a good home. On some level, both may be true. I joke around that one day I might become a crazy dog lady.

I adopted Dixie because I was tired of feeling alone.

When Aspen came into our lives in 1997, hubby and I had moved to S Cali a few months before. He was over his head in an exciting new job, and I was sitting home alone in a new state, a new community, without a job, just started a new school, with no friends or family around…..and I felt very alone.  Granted, hubby had promised that we would get a dog in our new home (a very exciting prospect for me, as I LOVE dogs and was never allowed to have one). But I had never truly appreciated the saying “man’s best friend” until Aspy came into our lives.  She became my best friend during a time that I needed one. Aspy helped me get over a bad “break-up” with a very good friend; she kept me company when hubby worked late or traveled; and she comforted me when I’d come home from a long day of classes, when I was tired and tired of feeling like an outsider. Aspen always had a smile for me. And I can’t forget to mention that she was a great snacking partner–she and I both put on a few pounds snacking on potato chips while studying for finals and the bar exam.

Over the past 3 years, I’ve been dealing with a lot of personal shit. Losing Aspen in 2011 was hard. The following year, lots of emotionally challenging things happened–my human BFF died (see previous post), family issues took a huge emotional toll on me (esp. Since I was still reeling from BFF’s death). Did some therapy, lots of soul searching. Couldn’t climb out of my funk. Then my kids started getting older (natural progression of life, I know)….and they started to need me less….or more accurately, they have started to do their own thing. Hubby’s been wrapped up in a new job and basketball.

I began to feel very alone in the world again.

Then one day, in July 2014, a friend posted on FB, a picture of a young, blonde female Golden Retriever mix up for adoption through a rescue organization in Tennessee. She had Aspy’s eyes and small ears. 

I looked at her picture and all I could think of was……friend.

So with a little bit of rebellion and spunk, I put in an application to adopt her. I didn’t consult or talk over the decision with anybody. I just did it. To assert MY independence and free will, I guess. 

Dixie has been with us since August. I have been able to focus more, and to see the other “side of the coin,” if you will. I am calmer, and slightly more at peace. I love having that smiley happy face look up at me and say “hey there”. Someone who loves me despite my faults, fears, anxieties, and funky moods. No expectations or demands, other than a belly rub and a pat on the head (and a walk would be very nice, too).

  

So, that’s my new Dixie-doo, my new friend and companion. Very glad we have saved each other.

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Taking up a good chunk of real estate

Miss Lily is cramping my style.

Here is a description of her nightly sleeping habits, which she developed when we stopped crating her at night (which was probably about 6 mths old; she is now 3.5 yrs old).

Every night, we go upstairs to bed. She curls up on HER bed, tighter than a ball of yarn.  She’s a cold dog. A Chilly Lily. We cover her with her blanket.

And then EVERY NIGHT, somewhere around 2am (I think), she jumps on our bed. She would curl up in a tight little ball as not to disturb Mommy or Daddy, and hence not get kicked off.  Her actions were “If I lie here in a small little ball, they won’t notice, I won’t bother them, and I can be warm and comfy.”

I am a very deep sleeper. Honestly, I rarely (.0009999%) feel/hear her jump onto the bed.  But at 5am, or 6am, my legs need to be stretched out after being folded/bent for several hours. Clearly my subconscious knows when Lily jumps up and makes accommodations for her.  :>)~

Hubby, on the other hand, is a very light sleeper.  I have no idea if he knows/feels when Lily jumps on–especially since it’s on my side of the bed. But if he did know, I’m beginning to wish he’d kick her off.

WHY? you ask.

Hubby has been away on business trips 3 out of the last 4 weeks.  With such spacious accommodations, I take advantage of having the WHOLE BED TO MYSELF.  I like the middle, and I  like his side, as much as I like my side.  For a not-so-smart-dog, Lily has clearly noticed this too and also taken advantage of the situation.  (plus, the fact that we have a thick down comforter AND the flannel sheets on, how could Chilly Lily resist?)

She DOES NOT curl herself into a tight little ball anymore.  She spreads her long, lean body out and takes up as much real estate as she pleases.  Clearly, when Hubby was gone, I didn’t notice. I still had the rest of the bed. HOWEVER……with Hubby home, I am cramped. I WANT MY BED BACK. MY REAL ESTATE. She has her own bed……go away mutt!

The Itch is Back

Poor Miss Lily!

Seems like she’s allergic to August!

Remember last year, when she was itching uncontrollably for what seems like months (and it started in August)?  At first she was diagnosed and treated for mange, although no little buggers were found under the microscope.  (I wouldn’t wish this condition on my worst enemy!) Based on her symptoms and behavior, I truly believed that she did have mange.  However, the itching didn’t stop when the mange treatment ended–which it should have. So our Doggie Dermatologist started treating Lily for EVERYTHING–bacterial infection, fungal infections, and environmental allergies.  I finally got to the point that Lily’s itching seemed more controlled and “natural,” so we stopped going to the Doggie dermatologist in November.  She’s been “itch-free” all year long.

Until last week.

She’s not going full-out nuts like she did with the mange. But her itching increased to the point of driving me nuts.  As it was the weekend, I “home-treated” her.  I gave her a bath and remembered our vet allowed her to take Benadryl last August.  The Benadryl worked–until the 4 hr mark ended.

Off to the vet on Monday……And, as you could expect, the vet really didn’t know where to begin since Lily’s treatment by the DD included everything.  Since the Benadryl has been working, he suggested we increase the dose, take antibiotics (which I had leftover from last year) to prevent infections from her scratch zones, and apply a topical spray.  All work–not completely–but enough that she can nap and I don’t go nuts. But, man, that dog has some powerful scratching capacity!!!

So, we’re going on the theory she’s allergic to ragweed (which is in season right now), and this might be a yearly occurence. Sigh.   I’ll keep you posted.

P.S. Last year I “found” 2 of Lily’s siblings. I wrote to the owners, and it seems like her “twin” Hugo is also allergic to August!! Poor pups!

Grieving

apparently, it’s been a long time since I have grieved for someone I cared so very deeply for. And certainly, I have never grieved for someone who I spent 14 years living with.

It’s been a tough week.

I take great comfort in acknowledging a few things. 

First, I was a pretty darn good doggie-mommy.  For several years after the twins were born, I actually told people that I’m probably a better doggie-mommy than baby-mommy.  Dogs are, for the most part, simple creatures to figure out. Kids are *always* changing on you. From the start, I treated Aspy as a member of our family. She was my first pet. She was my baby-girl. My “practice” for when the real kids came.  I’m very thankful for Hubby letting me (and have the ability to) buy the “premium” dog food, and take Aspy to the vet for whatever ailed her.  First it was numerous ear infections, then when we moved East, she developed massive itchiness on her neck, and then later, her arthritis and thyroid issues took over. For 12 years (I subtract 2 for the years she spent with my in-laws in Cali while we were in England), she slept in our room. We celebrated her birthday every year. She went on as many vacations or day trips as we could take her. She had 3 round-trip airplane rides.  She was one happy dog. For years, my MIL would tell me that Aspen had a good life. I believe that. I tried very hard to give her one.

Aspen had a great last day. A Perfect Aspen Day.  Hubby suggested that for breakfast, I treat Aspen to Scrambled Eggs with Bacon and Cheese. My Ciocia  Jeannie (a fellow dog lover, the last person I grieved for, and who is taking care of Aspy in Heaven now) always believed that eggs are good for dogs. Over the past few years (maybe since Ciocia’s passing?) Aspen, and then Lily, would get any leftover scrambled eggs.  Bacon…..what dog doesn’t love bacon?!? Have you seen the doggie bacon commercials on tv? And Cheese.  Aspen LOVED cheese. More than anything. She would be outside (with the door closed) and she could hear a slice of American Cheese being unwrapped from the plastic.  When she became deaf, I think she could smell it from any corner of the house. Of course cheese would be included in her last meal.  I wish I had some zucchini for her that last day–she loved to munch on raw zucchini.

Hubby also suggested that we take Aspy on a car ride around town before heading to the vets.  Aspen LOVED car rides.  For the first four years we were together (before kids), she was my co-pilot. As long as it wasn’t too hot, I would take her to the grocery store, post office, anywhere. And then there were the trips to the beach, or the mountains, or camping.  She *knew* that a car ride equaled a new adventure. Therefore, I totally went along with Hubby’s suggestion. The last picture in the video tribute…..that was during that last car ride. As much as I thought Hubby was being TACKY and insensitive for bringing his camera….I wanted those last moments to be my private memories….in the end, I am ~glad~ he brought his camera. That last photo truly captures Aspen’s essence, and is thus a  fitting last photo.

Another factor that is making it ~easier~ for me to deal is that Apsen is no longer in pain. Shortly after the vet gave Aspen the sedative, Hubby and I helped her lie down. She closed her eyes. Yes, she was just sleeping. But it was the most peaceful sleep she has had in many, many months. At that very moment, I knew we were doing the right thing.

The day after….I went to Chicago. This was a planned trip. I had planned for over a year to attend this year’s National Mothers of Twins Convention (I attend every other year). The first day there, I was a zombie. I told my roomie not to expect me to make any decisions whatsoever. She was to lead, and I was to follow.  On Thursday, I was better. Maybe not better. But the convention provided a wonderful distraction.  Three whole days away from my house, and a new city, with a good friend, handling club business. Wonderful, wonderful distraction. I was even able to enjoy myself a bit.

But upon my return home on Sunday, all went pear-shaped again. I could feel Aspen’s “non-presence.” She just wasn’t there. 

SHE WAS NOT HERE. 

 IT MADE ME SO, SO SAD.

And it didn’t improve on Monday. Until a handwritten note from our vet came in the mail.  Finally, I was able to unleash all those tears I had been suppressing. The “healing” cry. 

For the most part, I’m doing better. I still notice that she’s not here. I occasionally get teary-eyed. Hubby has to deal with it, but I’m sure he expected me to be like this. But it’s ok. Because I know that wherever she is, she is smiling, as she did every day.

PS. Thank you to all my friends who have expressed their sympathies to us. It truly means a lot to us.

Helping Aspen

Aspen’s back legs, specifically her back left leg, are giving out.  The arthritis medication really isn’t helping any more, and I’ve increased her pain medication.  But if the legs don’t work, they don’t work, regardless of how much pain medication is given.

About 2 weeks ago, Aspen began having trouble standing up (particularly on the hardwood floors) and stay standing up. During her attempts, she would just skid back down.  If I was in the area, I would go and help her get up and steady her until she could move on her own power. 

For walks, instead of taking her through the basement, where we have hardwood stairs (which she hates), I have begun taking her through the front door, where there are only 6 steps and wood (trex) and not as slippery.  I then walk her across the lawn, a flat surface, to avoid the 3 stone steps, which are somewhat steep.  Most days, she can walk back up these 6 front steps with some encouragement; however, the last couple of days, I have had to carry her up (maybe due to my impatience?)

On Sunday morning, as I was assisting her downstairs (again, slippery hardwood stairs where she requires demands my help to make it down), she slipped. And she’s been worse ever since. I don’t know if the fall caused her left back leg to be weaker, or overnight the left back leg weakened, thus causing the slip.  She’s been limping around, and STRUGGLING to get up and hold her weight.  A few days ago, it was just “trouble” getting up, now it’s a struggle.

However, I have continued to take her on a daily walk. She expects it, and enjoys it.  In my head, I debate whether she’s capable to go on a walk. In the end, I say “Yes” because it brings her joy, and at least a small walk keep the muscles and bones working. Today was one of those days where I came very close to *not* walking her.  But I did. She went very, very slowly. The slowest ever. Towards the end, she was limping pretty badly. And, yes, I carried her up the stairs.

The boys have amazed me with their outpouring of love and support for Aspen. 

Two weeks ago, about the time I noticed Aspen having trouble standing up, I had to go buy her some dog food, as we had run out of her food. I was thinking out-loud whether I should get a big bag or a small bag, as well as “regular” dog food or continue to buy the food loaded with chondroiton and glucosomine.  All three boys agreed that I should buy the big chondroiton/glucosomine bag!

Each day, I alternate a twin to go on the dog walk with me (so someone can take Miss Lily a little farther). Yesterday, T-Man asked if Aspen would “make it” until our upcoming Maine get-away.  Yesterday morning I thought so. But I explained to T-man it would all depend on how she continues to do. He suggested we get her a doggie-cart for her back legs and then she could walk.  I explained that the biggest problem is all the stairs we have at our house.  He then suggested that we purchase and install one of those electric elevator lifts for our back stairs.

Today, M-man and I had a very similar conversation.  He felt bad that Aspen might not be able to go on walks much longer. His suggestion is that we get a treadmill, so Aspen could walk at her own pace at home.

Lovely ideas, boys….

Faltering Steps and Heavy Breathing

This post is about Aspen. And I’m feeling very emotional (early onset of PMS, I’m sure). So I’m not sure where this post will take me.

For regular followers of this blog, you know that Aspen turned the big One-Four in January. She’s been arthritic for about 5-6 years, has had a thyroid condition since 2007, and had a really bad fall around Christmas time….where hubby thought “it’s time”….luckily she recovered. 

Well, folks, the age thing is catching up, and I am saddened with Aspen’s condition each passing day.

For the past 2 months (when hubby is home) she requests an “elevator” ride upstairs at bedtime at least 3 times a week. The other times, I am able to convince her that I will walk slowly behind her, holding her butt, as she climbs up the stairs.  When hubby travelled 4 out of the last 5 weeks, I did everything I could think of to convince Aspen to climb the “bedtime stairs” all by herself.  I even tried to bribe her with cheese on each step hoping she would follow the cheese path up the stairs. Most nights it didn’t work, and I had to carry her up to the landing and urge her to walk the last 4 steps on her own.

Each morning, I am the one who she trusts to escort her back downstairs.  Funny thing, she does the backyard stairs–up and down–all by herself.

Today, there were 3 times where she tried to stand up, on the slippery hardwood floor no-less, and her back legs just wouldn’ t hold her up. She belly-flopped down.  After the third time, I helped her stand up by steadying her back-side and holding it up while she found her balance.  I then helped her down the back stairs so she could go to the bathroom.

Once her legs are “working,” she is fine. She has spent the last hour or so following us around. Yes, as a matter of fact, we have been cooking dinner. FOOD: Dog’s best motivator.  And although we have shortened our daily walks (much to Lily’s detriment and disappointment), Aspen does great on the walks. She pounds the pavement. Although, occasionally she does stumble.  But her mind  is sharp….and says “GO FARTHER”…. while her body is weak, and wants to go lay down. So as much as she “thinks” she’s still young and spry, we have to watch/limit Aspen’s activity.

Why? Because she has started to constantly pant. The vet told us it’s a mechanism dogs use when they are in pain. Which would translate to Aspen being in constant pain (despite her daily arthritis and thyroid medication).  And it certainly hasn’t been warm enough for her to be overheating.  Several years ago, I noticed a few “lumps” on Aspy–one most notably on her abdomen. Our previous vet didn’t even check it, just said it was most likely a fatty deposit. Our current vet is more concerned with Aspen’s other medical conditions and making her comfortable in her old age. I keep guessing it’s a cancerous tumor, and Dr. Vet probably feels that who wants to get a cancer diagnosis for a 14 year old very – loved dog?  Well….the lump has been getting bigger and harder recently. I’m thinking it’s what’s causing her the pain–besides the legs, of course.

Each day I look at Aspen to see if she’s giving me a “sign” that she wants to go. I know she’s in pain, and old, but her eyes still twinkle when we feed her, when we come home, when she goes for a walk , when she gets a treat.  It’s not enough for me to think it’s time to say good-bye. Part of me is feeling very selfish, and WANTS Aspen to live on until August when we return to our rented cabin in Maine.  She had such a FABULOUS time there last summer….swimming, digging up the flowers (sorry, Mr. Cabin-owner!), and her surprise boat ride. Wouldn’t it be great if she got to do that ONE MORE TIME? And I want her to have ONE MORE GREAT MEMORY.  But it’s not about me. It’s about Aspen.