Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Saturday, 2014.12.20
Agnes' Law: Almost everything in life is easier to get into than out of.

2008.04.25

When A Rose Attacks

If you ever want to know what happens to a ball like this…

…after a puppy who could barely hold this ball in her mouth when she was two months old…

…grows up and finds that long lost ball under the couch, the answer is this:

Except the pieces will be scattered hither and yon.

2007.06.04

Monday Evening Roses

Rose

Rose

2007.04.07

Dog Sense

If you’re a puppy and your owner has just given you a bath prior to a trip to the vet, what do you do just before leaving? Why, you sneak outside and dig in the muddy flower beds, of course.

Rose

2007.03.06

Every Rose Has Its Thorns

Five and a half pounds of pure speed. As an antithesis to Jasmine for whom, at age 13 years, there is no such thing as an action shot, for Rose, at age 11 weeks, there is no such thing as a still shot. You either get blur…

Rose

…or fuzzy.

Rose

She has a strong bite filled with bunches of needle sharp puppy teeth that seem to pierce anything. Unfortunately, my stocking feet are a favorite. Ouch.

Previously:

Introducing…
Dangerous Cuteness IV
Dangerous Cuteness III
Dangerous Cuteness II
Dangerous Cuteness
A Dog Needs A Dog

2007.02.11

Introducing…

…Rose (n. Willow)

At 2 weeks…

Rose - 2 Weeks

…3 weeks…

Rose - 3 Weeks

…4 weeks…

Rose - 4 Weeks

…5 weeks…

Rose - 5 Weeks

…6 weeks…wait for it…

Rose - 6 Weeks

…Ears!…7 weeks…

Rose - 7 Weeks

…and finally, 8 weeks.

Rose - 8 Weeks

Settled on “Rose” for the name after seeing the puppy’s ears. Two of Janet’s favorite rose varieties were “Barbara Bush” and “Barbara Streisand”. The puppy’s ears look like petals from these two bushes in Janet’s rose garden.

Spent most of yesterday driving out to Burlington, Colorado to meet the owners at Paws and Claws Kennel. Brought Jasmine along as she would have final say over whether or not the new puppy was a fit. It was a rough trip for the old girl, but she was a trooper and seemed to like the puppy. All that’s left is to work out a few hierarchy rules between the two of them back home (So far, it’s working out really good.)

They say you learn more about a company when things go wrong and experience how the company handles the problem. Such was the case here. A potential glitch in our deal arose and was handled completely to my satisfaction. Landon & Dana Richards were excellent to work with – conscientious, fair and honest. Their operations were very clean and a good example of what a responsible breeder’s kennel should look like. In addition to puppy pictures, I encouraged them to put pictures of their kennel on their web site. The puppies sell themselves, but pictures of their operations would add just that extra bit of reassurance to potential customers, letting them know they are working with professionals and not some puppy mill crank.

If your decision is to work with a breeder, I highly recommend the Richards and Paws and Claws Kennel.

Previously:

Dangerous Cuteness IV
Dangerous Cuteness III
Dangerous Cuteness II
Dangerous Cuteness
A Dog Needs A Dog

2007.02.09

Dangerous Cuteness IV

The pups at 7 weeks. It’s down to a pick between one of these two:

Duo - 7 weeks

Previously:

Dangerous Cuteness III
Dangerous Cuteness II
Dangerous Cuteness
A Dog Needs A Dog

2007.01.31

Dangerous Cuteness III

The pups at 6 weeks.

Trio - 6 weeks

Previously:

Dangerous Cuteness II
Dangerous Cuteness
A Dog Needs A Dog

2007.01.24

Dangerous Cuteness II

The pups at 5 weeks.

Trio - 5 weeks

Previously:

Dangerous Cuteness
A Dog Needs A Dog

2007.01.18

Dangerous Cuteness

The pups at 4 weeks.

Trio - 4 weeks

I’ll have a pick of one from two of these three (it’s set math, but I have faith you can figure it out.) Clearly, it won’t be easy.

Previously:

A Dog Needs A Dog

2007.01.10

A Dog Needs A Dog

Somewhere buried in this new techo-widget I got several weeks back, beneath the MP3 player, the still camera, the video camera, the web browser, games and the manual only knows what else, there is a phone. Once I figured out how that worked the rest became so much cruft to be ignored. A few days back, an almost need arose for a camera in an unanticipated situation. So it was time to learn how the camera feature worked. Pretty simple and the quality was better than I expected. Here’s the old lady:

Jasmine 1Jasmine 2

Since Mac Duff’s departure, Jasmine has been slowly sinking. She’s a fabulous companion for me, but alas I’m wholly unqualified to be a good dog. On walks where we encountered other dogs, Jaz would light up. Clearly, she needs a companion dog. It doesn’t help that most of the sidewalks around here are pretty much buried under ice and snow. That makes it difficult to walk a small dog, especially and old, slightly arthritic one. Hence the search began more than a month ago for a buddy to Jasmine. Happy to say, it looks like I have one lined up.

The criteria were fairly straightforward. No large dogs and no nano dogs. Most of my experience is with terriers so to minimize the learning curve as well as insure the greatest compatibility with Jasmine, my skills and the house/yard configuration, the choice came down to either a Silky terrier, a Cairn terrier or a West Highland terrier.

I looked at all the rescue organizations for each of the breeds, but the wait was too long or the expense was too great once travel/transport was factored in. Some of the dogs also had behavior problems which would not have worked with the combination of Jasmine’s age and me not being able to be at the house 24/7. A puppy would be easier to work with in this regard, but they rarely show up on the rescue dog circuit – at least not for the breeds I was looking for.

So the next option was to look for a breeder. I looked at quite a few. Some had rather…um….extensive requirements and made adopting a child look like shopping at Wal-Babies. Agree to unannounced visits for the life of the animal? I don’t think so. First right of refusal for the life of the animal if I have to give it up? Nope, not after I paid for air transport. I want breeders to work to place their animals in good homes and I expect some level of checking. But once I’ve been cleared, the deal is done and I start carrying the bills, the breeder should be out of the picture except for any guarantees they may have offered.

I have found a dog breeder with whom I am comfortable doing business. I won’t mention the breeder until the puppy is home and settled, but so far so good. For a Silky or a Cairn, there would have been the added expense of air travel. But a Westie breeder with several recent litters was found within a few days drive. Close enough I can bring Jasmine along for the road trip. Around mid February, I’ll have my pick from two of the following three female puppies (shown at 3 weeks):

Trio - 3 weeks

Hmmmmmm. What to name the puppy…

2006.11.22

Mac Duff

Lay on, MacDuff, and curs’d be him who first cries, “Hold, enough!”. — Shakespeare

Re-read my post on Mac Duff moving on and thought of a few things I wanted to add.

First, I wanted to say more about Dr Ann Brandenburg-Schroeder. She is a tiny woman, a grandmotherly figure who looks like she stepped off a Norman Rockwell painting. Neither her attire or her bags had the slightest suggestion of being a veterinarian. And Mac Duff’s nose was as curious as ever about what she was carrying. He quickly found the biscuits and was welcome to them. Dr. Ann thought of every detail and asked me questions like if I wanted a snip of Mac Duff’s fur (I had already done that) or a paw print in clay (which I accepted). She even researched the proper tartan for the Mac Duff clan and tried to match the blanket he would be wrapped in after he was gone.

In addition to explaining what she was going to do, several times, she carefully explained what Mac Duff’s reactions would likely be along the way. I knew most of what to expect, but if this was a first time or if there were kids saying goodbye to a pet, her explanations would have been priceless in helping them with the experience.

Dr. Ann talked about how after the last shot, and Mac Duff’s breathing and heart had stopped, animals sometimes take one last quick breath. She described this as the soul leaving the animal’s body and not to be alarmed by it. She was also willing to let me spend as much time with Mac Duff after he died as I wanted. I told her all I wanted to do, after his breathing and heart had stopped and he was leaving his body, was to play a piece on the cello which Mac Duff seemed to like. And so, when it was time, I played the “Ashokan Farewell” for Mac Duff. (Alas, I hadn’t practiced the piece on the bag pipes for the lad!)

Dr. Ann took care of the cremation arrangements as well. I like it that they use the metal tag identifier with pets like they do with people. Dr. Ann had recorded Mac Duff’s tag number on my receipt and tied the metal tag to his front left paw with, what else, a tartan ribbon.

I helped wrap Mac Duff’s body in the tartan blanket Dr. Ann had brought and I carried him out to her car. She had lined the back of her VW wagon with blankets of the same tartan and had a pillow ready for Mac Duff’s head. I put Mac Duff’s little body in the back, scratched his ears one last time and stepped back. He looked every bit like he was taking one of his naps. Dr. Ann said I could close the hatchback of her car when I was ready. I didn’t need long, Mac Duff was gone.

Wow. What a contrast to the way Pfred and Oscar had to leave. Particularly Oscar, for I believe he unfortunately suffered more than necessary before his death. He knew where he was and he absolutely hated the vet or anything that so much as suggested a cage of any kind. A dislike no doubt coming from his first 6 months in a puppy mill cage shared with a bigger dog that continually attacked him.

Time HealsThe next day I met a friend for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Marie and I feel the same about our dogs and loosing one is no small thing. At the end of the meal, the fortune cookie for me was “Time heals all wounds”. I had written quite a bit about this particular phrase in a notebook I’m using to collect such thoughts which will eventually end up in the book I need to write.

Any truth behind this phrase is a myth. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. I’d say unequivocally it doesn’t heal any wounds. What it can do is give those who have suffered a loss the opportunity to grow, explore and discover new and deeper ways to live. Time gives those with even a small amount of courage the opportunity to find ways toward strengthening their soul and moving forward. And in doing so, the distance traveled gives perspective and reveals meaning about the rough road behind them. It doesn’t matter that others fail to understand this insight. It only matters to those who have suffered such deep losses. For them, there is no such thing as just another sunrise or sunset. It is the paradoxical gain that comes from loss.

2006.11.20

Janet’s Boy Drops His Body

Mac DuffFor the third time in the past 18 months I’ve had to hold hospice here at home. First Janet, then our little silky terrier, Oscar, and this past week it was our cairn terrier, Mac Duff. I had to euthanize the pup this past Thursday night.

This all unfolded rather suddenly. About four weeks ago Mac Duff started limping on his front left leg. He reluctantly put weight on it and would hold his left paw in the air when he was just sitting. Pick him up wrong and he would screech in pain. Not a good sign. Detailed blood tests, abdominal ultrasound, MRI, a lump biopsy, $4,000 and four vets later the answer came back as very aggressive malignant lymphoma.

Mac Duff was a rescue dog. We got him at about 6 months of age. Janet wanted a third puppy and I grudgingly acquiesced. She had been through some rather difficult chemotherapy and surgery and wanted some puppy energy in the house to help boost her spirits and had wanted a blond cairn terrier for a long time before that. Mac Duff provided all this in one tiny nuclear package. He never slowed down and had the best temperament of any terrier I’ve ever known. He was Janet’s puppy.

Phyllis Glawe, the oncology vet at the Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado (VRCC) was clear and detailed with the facts. I’d asked for that up front given my history of supporting Janet in her fight with cancer. Smoke, mirrors and candy coated prospects are a bad thing. A very, very bad thing. If I’m to make a decision, I need to know what I’m up against, what the options are and what the likely consequences of any decisions might be.

A vet, or a medical doctor, earns a great deal of my respect from me if they are capable of acknowledging when they don’t know something. The valuable piece of knowledge contained in that acknowledgment is that I need to look elsewhere for an answer. Feigning knowledge for egotistical reasons, presenting speculation as fact and the like is also a very, very bad thing. It was that kind of attitude that put Janet is such a difficult situation before we even knew what was going on.

So, given that Mac Duff’s cancer was very aggressive and already quite advanced, if I had opted to put him through chemotherapy the cytolysis of the cancer cells would have flooded his little body with buckets of dead cell material, further taxing his already struggling liver and immune system and making him even sicker than the chemotherapy drugs would already make him. He could die from the treatment. Then there would be the side effects of the drugs: fur loss, vomiting, incontinence, risk of infection. God damn it, this is all too familiar. Not only this, but after six months of treatment, Mac Duff would have another 3-6 months cancer free after which the likelihood of a recurrence is very great and we would be right back where we were this past week. Only after much suffering and another $4,000+ lighter.

As Mac Duff’s owner/caretaker, the tough decisions are left to me. When Dr. Glawe showed me the protocol Mac Duff would be on, I knew what was in store for him when I saw words like “Adriamycin”, “Anzemet”, “Cytoxan” and “Cycloposphamide”. I could hear Janet’s voice screaming at me “Don’t torture the puppy!”

After the awful experience of having to put Oscar down and the way his last week on the planet unfolded, I wanted to find a vet who would make house calls for euthanasia. After speaking with several contacts, I settled on Dr Ann Brandenburg-Schroeder who specializes in pet euthanasia and calls her business “Beside Still Water“.

What a find! Dr. Ann is an angel. I had expected the house call vet would pretty much do what they do at the vet office except they would give the shot to put Mac Duff down at home. Not so. As soon as Dr. Ann stepped in the front door, she sat on the floor with Mac Duff and worked on setting a friendly rapport. There was nothing about Dr. Ann that said “vet” to Mac Duff. She had tasty biscuits from Great Harvest Bakery, spoke softly to him and scratched his ears. Even my other cairn terrier, Jasmine, took biscuits from Dr. Ann. Jasmine never takes treats from strangers. While doing this, she explained the process. She did this several times during the two hours she was there at the house, no doubt to remind me of what would happen.

Basically, she used four shots over about 15-20 minutes. The first was a strong pain killer, which made Mac Duff relax (first time in 4 weeks) and made him a bit sleepy. The second shot relaxed him even more. He was still aware and Dr. Ann said a loud noise or such would cause him to take notice. He was still tracking me with his eyes. The third shot was basically anesthesia and put him into an unconscious sleep. The fourth shot was an overdose which stopped his breathing and heart. Like Janet, when Mac Duff left, he jetted out of the galaxy.

I have a clear sense Mac Duff didn’t know what was about to happen. At no point was he afraid or agitated. He was comfortable and certainly enjoyed the treats. Unlike Oscar, who I had to take to the vet at 3:00 AM. As much as Oscar was suffering, he knew where he was – that place where people hurt him. So he fought and struggled. And the animal hospital vet didn’t get the euthanasia drug dose right and had to give him two shots. So he didn’t die right away. It still troubles me thinking about how he left. With Mac Duff, I have a much better feeling about his last days and moments. Dr. Ann is the main reason I’m doing better after Mac Duff’s death than I was after Oscar’s. The overall cost of using Dr. Ann’s services are not that much more than taking one’s pet to the vet to be euthanized. But the benefits to both you and your pet are an order of magnitude better.

I have one ding against VRCC for the record. It needs to be said to help readers who may be in my position. First off, understand that the vets at VRCC are very, very good. We refer to VRCC as the “Mayo Clinic for Pets.” They are also very, very expensive. And that’s not my grudge. I love all my pets and consider them a part of the family. Not in the perverted sense that some pet owners do who think it fitting to dress their pets up in people clothes, feed them human food, take them to pet psychologists and pet psychics, etc. Not in this house. We know our dogs are dogs and we care for them according to their nature. My dogs are on a raw food diet for the most part and they thrive on such food. They are given plenty of room to play and frequent walks. What ever care they need, if I can at all afford it, they get it.

My ding is how the tests were triaged. With obvious multiple lymph nodes that had had swollen to the size of plums in just one week, the sensible thing to do would have been to run the blood tests and biopsy first and deferred the $2,500 MRI until after the less expensive and, frankly, more appropriate tests results were available. But VRCC tends to go for the full buffet. They did this with Oscar but I put the breaks on that when they presupposed my instant answer to his potential glaucoma problem was to remove the cataracts in his eyes and replace his lenses with artificial lenses.

When it’s one of my dogs that is suffering, it’s difficult to keep the caveat emptor attitude. I trust the vets to make the correct call and not act as if they have a blank check with which to work. VRCC has my vacation for 2007. I hope they enjoy it because I likely won’t be traveling far.

[Edit History]

2006.11.22

Add more information in second post regarding Mac Duff.

2005.08.01

Little Big Man Drops His Body

This is turning into a banner year for transitions here at the Engel homestead. First Janet and now Oscar has jetted on out of here. The little dude has been fighting so hard for so long. He has been seriously sick almost as long as Janet. I think his first serious brush with death was when his liver darn near quit on him close to 8 years ago. Since then it’s been major respiratory problems (kennel cough set this off), an enlarged heart and a murmur, kidney problems and finally three years ago he flipped diabetic. Turns out, true to his stubborn character, he is highly insulin resistant. Rather than needing 3 units of insulin with each meal for a dog his size, Oscar needed 15 units. By the time the vet figured out the proper dose, Oscar was pretty much blind due to cataracts. As with all his ailments, he simply adjusted and moved on. A powerful little package of inspiration in his own right. (more…)


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