A New Summer

>> Friday, June 25, 2010

For the first time in eight years, we are going to the UP without Wembley. Actually, something very monumental is happening when we will be away: July 4th marks eight years to the day that we brought our beautiful girl home. Alan will still be camping on Isle Royale, leaving me alone to process and question something that started eating away our little baby. Even if I had every clinical answer, I would still be asking why this happened when it did.

This trip will mark our first time in the UP with our new pack. It will be Walter's first time up there, and Quincy's first time as a nearly adult dog, and Reagan's first time without Wembley. I'm hoping Q will learn how to swim and not be afraid of the water, and that Walter will use his life jacket and enjoy some freedom from the pressure of his bad leg. There will be all sorts of fun things for them to explore, other pups to meet, and romping around with their pup cousins, Zeke and Honey. All I want is for them to have fun, because every once in awhile Reagan slips into "looking for Wembley" mode, which is the single, most heartbreaking part of our loss. We know what happened, but does Reagan? She knows her best friend is gone, but everything else is most likely a mystery.

We're all still learning how to be without her, and I am hoping this trip perks things up for all of us. Alan and I often talk about how we feel stuck in a bizarre tunnel where time marches on, but our sadness clings to every thought and moment. A haunting that will only grow the more we love, but looking into the faces of our critters, we know it's worth it.


Chow Chow Head Tilt

>> Thursday, June 24, 2010

Just a silly video of Walter and a little bit of Quincy. Walter's head tilt is responsible for the many cute pictures of him. Anytime he hears a noise, he tilts his head. I don't know if this is a Chow Chow thing or just a random thing, but I've seen many videos of other Chows doing the same, so perhaps it is the breed. In any case, it is adorable!

Note- he's watching a video of someone playing with a squeak toy. That is NOT me!


Taking a Chance on an Undesirable

>> Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I've been anticipating the premiere of "Last Chance Highway" on Animal Planet ever since I saw previews for it. Before the show aired, I watched this clip: "Rescue From Death's Door."

While it is a wonderful and beautiful thing that these people devote their spare time and money to saving dogs in danger, I couldn't help but be struck pretty hard by a concept in the video, that being the idea of picking out the most adoptable dogs. Yellow dogs are the most popular, and of course so are puppies. The dogs with most adoption potential were plucked out of the pound and rescued.

Alan finally said the words we were both thinking: "Walter would have been left there."

Being a lover (which puts it mildly) of golden retrievers, I am sure many people would point their own fingers at me for loving yellow dogs. I do love yellow dogs, but I love black dogs, white dogs, red dogs, brown dogs, and multi-colored dogs too. It all boils down to the DOG itself. I NEVER thought I would have a boy dog, and I thought our next dog would be a giant Newfoundland. Walter is a boy and definitely not a Newfoundland, but I fell in love with him.

Most people who know of Walter know his story and how he was a death row dog, but my sister is the only one who really understands what terrible condition he was in upon arrival, and how terrifying the dog pound was for those pups.

Walter's photo on Dogs in Danger did not reflect his poor condition whatsoever. His undercoat was so matted that the groomer said it had to be shaved off in one huge chunk. He had a huge eye tumor, his eye was all goopy and crusty, his ears were dirty, and his coat filthy. He had a nasty accident on the seat in the car on the way home due to being scared, and another accident in the bathtub that same night. Walter was so terrified of everything that he refused to walk, and we had to carry him to get him to go anywhere. The vet even had to load him into my car.

Knowing just the basics of a dog pound pup, Walter was an old man, crippled with a bad paw. He was a mess. An undesirable. And as Alan said, he would have been left there because so many seniors are, not to mention the crippled ones. Despite all of this, I just fell in love with him. The day after I rescued him we drove to the vet, and tears filled my eyes with the thought that he might need to be put down, not knowing if this old boy had cancer or some other terrible disease. I had only known him for one day, but I loved him as if he had been mine forever. In the end, I knew that if it was time, dying with a family who loved him was much better than dying on the cement floor of a dog pound, unloved and scared.

Luckily, that was not the case. This "undesirable" is a well-adjusted dog now. Walter has really come out of his shell in the last month or so. He gets excited about eating, which before he just seemed shocked that someone gave him a bowl. He snuggles with Alan after being scared of him (just for being a man) for quite awhile. Walter runs and hops around the yard, plays with stuffed animals, enjoys all of the attention he gets at Petsmart, and doesn't try to hide in the dog beds there anymore. He even climbs up onto our bed and waits for me to get ready in the morning.

While we took a chance on him, Walter has given us something we can never repay him for, and that is helping us heal from the loss of Wembley. He won't take her place (nobody will), and that is not what we expected, but he makes our life feel full again. Seeing every new step he takes toward becoming a well-adjusted dog makes us happy and grateful for him. Walter is our lifesaver.


Wembley Wednesday - Five Months

>> Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dear Wembley,

Friday is June 18th. That means you have been gone for five months now. Any time one of these milestones creeps up, I grow increasingly sad. The regular days are sad too, and even though I am tired of crying, I never want to get over you. I never will, either. There's space for other dogs, and I will love all of them in different ways, but we had something special. My nose isn't a perfect fit with anyone else's nose, and I know there will never be a dog as girly-girl/princess-y as you were. And don't worry, I am getting the hints you drop when I make a statement about how much I love Walter/Quincy/Reagan. The songs, the golden retriever commercials- YES- I know that is you controlling the airwaves. Don't worry, you will never, ever be forgotten.

I love you more than ever, Wembs, and miss you more than that.

Love, Mommy

P.S.- Take care of Cedar. Lorry misses her.


Quincy Lulu's Tutu

>> Monday, June 14, 2010

Quincy is an oddball. Before Quincy, we had two Goldens. We both wanted another dog, that being a Newfoundland. Of course Alan was resisting, saying we had to wait before we moved into our house, and all of these other crazy reasons that we have both forgotten by now. When we were at the pet expo in Novi (we go every year), I was keeping my eyes peeled for Newfs, and then we walked past a rescue full of puppies. My eye caught the little black fur balls that looked like Newf puppies, and I basically stole Quincy out of the arms of another lady. As a side note, I actually found this person on Dogster and she ended up adopting Quincy's brother, Riley. It has been wonderful, because we can compare notes on how they have been growing up and developing. We were both convinced we had Border Collie/Newf mixes for a variety of reasons.

When I picked up Quincy, she nuzzled her head into my neck and was acting as sweet as can be, giving me puppy kisses and just generally being all cute. Alan caved. We took Quincy home knowing she was a Border Collie mix, just because we fell in love with her. Everyone we met thought she was a Newf, including people WITH Newfs. Even our vet thought she looked like a Newf mix. Now that she is nine months old, Newf she is not. Quincy weighs a whopping 30-35ish pounds, not the maybe 60 we were expecting.

She isn't what we thought she would be, but that's fine by us. She is a quirky little ball of energy. She looks like a bear cub when she runs, makes all sorts of weird noises that can't possibly be put into words, bares her teeth and wrinkles her nose with a huge smile, and gets into a lot of trouble. She is not the most intelligent dog (as Border Collies are supposed to be), but she is a pure sweetheart. In the last few months, we have been watching her develop and grow into her own personality, one that we fall in love with a little more each day.

On Saturday, I brought Quincy outside for a little photo shoot in her tutu. She isn't as girly and princess-y as Wembley was, but she is a darling little girl in her own way, and certainly girly enough to wear tutus. The moments were quiet and precious, just Quincy and I in the yard, rolling around in the grass. Sometimes it takes that one on one time to remind me that although they are part of the pack, their individual personalities are what made me really fall in love.


Pup Walk at the Bay City Rec Area

>> Thursday, June 10, 2010

The other night we decided to go on a picnic at the Bay City Rec Area and take a walk around the mile loop. There are many options to walk, but since we wanted to bring Walter, a mile was enough. It was Walter's longest walk since we've had him, and a mile seems to be his limit. He was pretty tired after that, but we were so proud of him for how well he did. It helped that we let him have a couple of pit stops to chill out, including a few minutes at the beach (which technically the dogs are NOT allowed on, but we stayed close to the boardwalk).

On our way back, a lady stopped and asked us what was wrong with his leg. Of course our natural response is always "We don't know", which needs to be changed, because she offered to look at it. We explained we adopted him like that and she said something about radial nerve paralysis, which is what he has, so she must have been a vet or a vet tech. It was very nice of her to ask, but I can't help but wonder how many people think we are terrible dog owners for letting our pup walk around the way he does, or if they think we did something neglectful for his leg to be in such a position.

The night ended up being pretty perfect and ended with three tired out pups, all happy and sound asleep on the car ride home.


Wembley Wednesday

>> Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I never stop thinking about Wembley. It has been nearly five months since she passed, and contrary to the "time heals all wounds" and "it will get better with time" cliches, it is not getting better. Alan and I talk about Wembley, cry about Wembley, and just plain miss Wembley. It seems everything we see reminds us of her. Sometimes, almost always regretfully, we pull out the Wembley box and see her collars and toys, the cards we were sent after she left us and during her treatment, her cute little cheerleader outfit and her pretty, pink princess shirts. Then there's the ceramic heart with her paw print on it, given to us by our vet on that horrible, horrible day. Her rhinestone collar bearing her name still smells like her. They're all painful reminders of the fact that she was here, and she wasn't "just a dog."

Now, we're still here, wondering how it all happened, still wondering if we did everything right. I can't help but blame myself. What if I read into her dog food sooner? What if I got a blood test when she got her yearly vaccination, and found the cancer earlier? What if we didn't live in an apartment with disgusting water and the constant, lingering scent of cigarettes from the smokers below and next to us?

This is certainly not the way I want to remember Wembley- full of cancer and medication. Most of the time, it isn't how I remember her. Mostly I remember how beautiful she was, how kind and snuggly, and how she was truly my very best friend. Despite all of the horrible things in the world, the kindness of Wembley always gave me a reason to calm down and deal with it.

I saw this quote the other day that is fitting for our loss:

"Dogs possess an indomitable spirit for life that teaches right up to their last day."

If only all of us were so noble.


Happy Birthday, Piper!

>> Friday, June 4, 2010

One year ago today, I was driving to work, hating my job, hating my life because of my job, and wanting another pet, preferably a dog. This was a time in my life where I cried every day on my drive to work, because I was teaching the class from hell where a student was sending me threatening e-mails and generally acting crazy.

On June 4th, I turned onto the road that meant work was only five minutes away, and was thinking about how I would never be so lucky to find a stray dog. During the beginning of my last class (not the one I hated), I looked out the window to my left and saw her: a teeny-tiny kitten sitting with her mama, a feral cat that had been frequenting the campus for years. Deep down, I knew it would not be right to leave her outside, but I wasn't sure if I would be able to nab her or if she would even be there when class ended. When I looked out the window again, I noticed her ear was gone, and in its place a bloody wounded mess. THEN I knew I was not leaving without her, even if I had to stay all day long.

After rushing her to the vet, I found out the kitten was indeed a little girl, and most likely about 6 weeks old. She only weighed one pound, one ounce, and was terrified. The first thing she did at our apartment was hide behind the washing machine. I held her and snuggled her as much as she would let me, just to make sure Piper knew she was safe and loved.

One year later, we have the world's greatest cat. She is cuddly, loves to play, sleeps with us, cleans the dogs, wrestles with the dogs, has the cutest trills in the world, and is generally just amazing. More importantly, Piper gave me something I will never be able to repay her for, that being a sense of usefulness during a time where I felt like giving up on everything. I just hope she breaks some sort of crazy record for being the oldest cat ever, because she is adored in this house. She is the Wembley of cats. That's like being the fanciest car of all cars (I seriously have no clue what the fanciest or best car is).

Piper's birthday presents:

Catnip bubbles
Giant life-sized rat toy (she is a crazy hunter...she loves it)
Dried anchovies
Two bags of treats- milk flavored and fishy beach mix
A squeaky mouse to hang from her cat tower
Play cube (all of the presents were in it)
Treat dispenser ball

Alan and I put the cube with all of the toys onto the bed and let Piper explore. She was purring and purring and purring, getting louder with each one. Her favorites are the beachy fish treats and the giant rat. Now, she's here on my lap, curled up into a ball, sleeping and purring some more. I think she is having a good birthday.


Kennel Stars

>> Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I am pleased to report the kennel was a positive experience. This place is fantastic, and I'm sure we will use them again when we head to DC at the end of July. It looks like a little villa on the outside, and the back (which I saw in an overhead photo of the place) is completely fenced in and has a swimming pool. Reagan will definitely be getting the swimming pool option in July. Someone ended up canceling, so we were able to snag a VIP room.

Walter, Reagan, and Quincy were the stars of the kennel. One of the workers said that when she came in, everyone was raving about how great "the family" was. She also said they were very well-behaved and the workers really appreciated all of the notes about each dog, and how we divided up the food to make it easy. They encouraged us to come back of course. After seeing how happy and relaxed the dogs were when we picked them up, I feel much better about it. They were really tired and slept the entire way home, so they obviously got some exercise during their play sessions!

I am so grateful it was not a negative experience like last time.



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