Small Things Equal Big Worries

>> Tuesday, June 21, 2011

After you have a pet die from cancer, especially quite suddenly, every small ailment feels like a huge deal. Right now Reagan is limping a lot and her back end is quite wobbly. She has hip dysplasia, but has had no issues with it since her first bout with it about four years ago. This week it seems her hips are really hurting. We'll give it a few days of rest and see if she improves, but after that it will be time for an x-ray if there isn't a change. The worst part about all of this is fearing for the worst: cancer.

Reagan is only six years old, but after losing Wembley at seven years old, I'm terrified to think of Reagan passing away at a young age. She had a vet check-up two weeks ago and everything checked out fine, including her bloodwork, yet here I am, worrying about the big C for no reason at all.

Quincy had a limp about six weeks ago, and naturally I feared for the worst, thinking she also had hip dysplasia (She turned out to be fine and had a minor strain). Walter has a small fatty tumor on his bad leg, right where it meets his body. Again, I freaked out and thought it was a cancerous tumor, and obsessively checked it to see if it got bigger. Luckily that was not the case. I can't help but wonder if I will ever stop thinking this way after losing Wembley so suddenly.

My heart is so full of love for these guys, that all I want is for them to play all day, have fun, and be happy. A retriever who loves to play ball more than anything else shouldn't have to deal with hip dysplasia that keeps her from running.


Super Easy Dog Treats

>> Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In an effort to help the pups cool down and save some money on expensive treats, I made some frozen dog treats this week with only two ingredients: peanut butter and bananas. I had five bananas that were past their eatable stage (for me anyway), but still good for baking- or in this case, dog treats.

I mashed the bananas together in a glass bowl and added about 3/4 cup of peanut butter. I used JIF natural, which is the closest thing to organic "mainstream" peanut butter that you can get. The pups shouldn't have just any old peanut butter, because most types are loaded with sugar and other less than stellar ingredients.

After mixing the ingredients together, I used a cookie cutter to serve as an outline, and spooned a little bit into it on top of wax paper. Altogether, this made eight frozen "bones". These were pretty big, so another idea would be to roll them into balls, with which you could probably double or triple the batch.

I gave them to the pups today, and all three gobbled them up with their seal of approval. I'll definitely be keeping this as a go to dog treat recipe!


One Year With Aurora

>> Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April 17th marked one year since Aurora came to live with us, and what a year it has been. Aurora looked so sad and lonely at Petsmart, and now she rules the roost!

I love white cats, and I always wanted a white princess cat. Aurora is not only a princess, she is an absolute diva. She loves cuddling and being held, she loves to play, and she especially loves Alan. When Alan gets home from work, Aurora marks her territory by rubbing up against his laptop bag and eagerly waits for his attention. When she gets it, she stretches out her neck and looks up into the air, happy as can be.

Aurora has a feisty streak and likes to pick on Piper here and there, but every once in awhile they will be sleeping just a couple feet from each other. I'm hoping that with time they become more friendly. Rhoda, on the other hand, loves Aurora and they especially love causing trouble together!

Having a deaf cat has been a learning experience. Aurora responds to hand signals well, which makes it easier. Since she loves to be outside and tries to escape, I have to keep a close watch on the doors. She does get outside time though, and even walks well on a leash. I'm also happy to report that she hasn't had any flare-ups with her luxating patellas (floating kneecaps) since the first time it happened!

Even though getting Aurora was totally unexpected, we are in love with her, and her vibrant personality shines a little more each day.


More Progress

>> Monday, March 14, 2011

Today is a gorgeous day. It has been disgusting and cloudy for a week, and I am loving this sunshine.

Yesterday, I took Walter to the local state park rec area and we walked the mile loop and went along the beach. There is still a lot of snow, especially along the water, and I was sinking to my knees in some places! Walter did fantastically, even though he got quite tired by the end. Of course people stopped us like they always do, to ask if Walter is hurt. One guy fell in love with him, and some lady was totally rude and said, "Now that's an old puppy. I bet he's at least ten to twelve years old." It was more in the way she said it that bothered me, especially considering she was not even very close to us. She may have said this because of the way he walks. He was at the end of a steady mile with one bad leg, and he has a delicate sense of balance. If she only knew the progress he has made.

This afternoon I decided to walk the girls, which is never an easy feat. Reagan is generally terrible on a leash unless she is wearing a prong collar. A lot of people think that's a cruel method of walking, but it has been the only thing to work for Reagan. Alan and I also did some testing on ourselves with it before we used it on the dogs to get an idea of what it feels like at different strengths.

I was ready to go, leashes in hand, and Reagan began jumping up and down, barked right in my face, and even nipped my hand because she was so excited to play. Quincy is a little easier to get the leash on. I left Walter in the kennel assuming he was too tired to go for a walk, not wanting to bother his joints and wanting to give him some recovery from our walk yesterday. Well, I'm out of the driveway and on my way with Quincy and Reagan, when Walter started barking. I kept walking and he started to bark again, so I went back and got him too.

Amazingly, this expedition was not a disaster, and I walked Walter farther than he has ever gone on our standard route. He was very tired at the end and had to take a lot of breaks once we reached the fields leading to our backyard, but the fact that he had enough energy and strength to go two days in a row is huge progress! I think I am going to start taking him on shorter walks to build up his strength, and see if he can get to going one mile without struggling at the end. Either way, I'm thrilled that he was able to do SO well today.

After our walk, Quincy and Reagan got some time in with the Chuck-It, the greatest invention for high energy dog owners. With the Chuck-It, we can throw the ball farther than with just the arm, and the rubber balls that are made by the same company are lighter and fly better. They also bounce when they hit the ground, so if the dogs don't see the ball right away, it bounces back up. Quincy is so fast that she beats Reagan every time, but Reagan always runs back and forth. Because Quincy is so fast, we have to either trick Quincy or give Reagan her own retrieving time.

The pack is now sound asleep, all basking in the sunshine of the living room, happy and content.


Walter: One Year Later

>> Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dear Walter,

Today is the eve of your observed birthday, marking one year since picked you up from that dog pound in southern Ohio. It's hard to believe you were headed to a gas chamber, especially when I look at you now. The days leading up to your rescue were emotionally exhausting, due to not thinking clearly, longing for another 'velcro' dog, and trying to make Alan understand that I wanted another dog not to replace Wembley, but to make something good come out of her passing. Then I saw your face five days before I met you, on Dogs in Danger. I emailed golden retriever rescues about you, trying to get you out, but nobody got in touch with me, and now I'm so happy they didn't. I know now that Wembley picked you out just for us.

I will always remember that drive, leaving in the middle of the night with Molly, my heart racing and pounding with adrenaline and worry that you might already be disposed of on accident by the time I got there. Molly and I trembled as we entered the windowless pound where they were hosing your cage down. In a silent gesture we held out our hands to show each other how much we were shaking, how anxious we were to grab you and Ava and get out of there, far away from such a sad place.

While Molly met Ava, I met you. You were so eager to be loved and held, and you were a mess: dirty, matted, and sporting a big eye tumor and an eye infection. Doubt crossed my mind if I had what it takes to rehabilitate someone with so many special needs, but I kept going, because I knew the moment I saw your photo that we had to be together.

Now it's a year later, and you have overcome an abundance of challenges that crossed your path:

Scared of men
Scared of going out in public
Scared of the bed
Scared of most people in general
Going up and down flights of steps
Crippling shyness
Confining yourself to the dog bed when scared

Sometimes I wonder what happened to your leg, and what happened to you to make you so terrified, but we both know it's better left a mystery. What really matters is the bond we share and the trust you have in me. Sometimes I can't believe how much I love you. It's often overwhelming in the best way. I think about people who passed you up, including pound volunteers who commented on your sweetness. You were so special to them that they put an ad for you in the newspaper, yet nobody came around or stepped up to take you home, and now I know this is because you were waiting for me. You're lucky, but I'm even luckier because I get to love you and take care of you for the rest of your life.

I love you, Walter. Happy Birthday!


One Year

>> Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It doesn't seem possible that Wembley has been gone for a year already. I wanted to write her a letter on the anniversary, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Instead, I've been working really hard on assembling the scrapbook I have devoted to her. It's full now, but I plan on adding four more pages.

She passed away on January 18th, 2010, at 2:15 p.m. January 18th, 2010 was also the same day my grandfather was put into a nursing home.

On January 18th, 2011, I sat on the floor of our bedroom and hugged Walter tightly, watching the minutes before and after pass on my phone.

Now that this monumental date is over, I feel relieved, oddly similar to the relief I felt after she passed. No more chemo. No more suffering. No more late night two hour drives to the animal hospital. No more worrying about whether or not she was internally bleeding to death or starving from not eating.

Now, it's no longer the year Wembley passed away.

Soon it will be one year since we rescued Walter, and rescued Ava. And Bella the pit bull, who is thriving in the home we found for her (and I get updates on). And one year since I fell in love with the deaf white cat who turned out to be an absolute diva. One year since taking Rhoda out of the horrible cages of Animal Control.

All of these small milestones are because of Wembley, an angel alive and an angel now.


Feeding Time At the Zoo

>> Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's no surprise that I am often asked this question: How do you feed all of those animals? Not meaning the cost, but meaning the method. It is not easy, but now that I'm working from home, we have a pretty good system that the dogs and cats are used to. In fact, they are so used to it that if I decide to sleep in, it just doesn't happen, because they wake me up, ready to eat.

The cats do not sleep with us. I feel bad about this, because Piper loved sleeping on my legs, and Aurora prefers to sleep on Alan's back. With Quincy sleeping with us now, and Walter's new habit of jumping into bed with us early in the morning (he prefers his orthopedic dog bed), and Reagan above the pillows, the bed is quite full. Rhoda is the reason we can't have the cats in the room. She is so affectionate and purrs constantly. Touch her, she purrs. Her favorite place to sleep is snuggled up to either one of our necks. Her purr is just too loud and she is too pushy with her snuggling to get any sleep, so now we keep the door closed. I did catch Rhoda and Piper sleeping in a ball on the chair, so I know they are okay with it.

Moving on- the morning is hectic. The earlier I get up, the better, because if it's too early the dogs won't be crazy and ready to go. Around seven-thirty or eight, they start to get antsy, hungry, and ready to go outside. Anything earlier than that they will sleep.

The dogs go outside first thing, and while they're doing their business and romping around, I keep an eye on them (we don't have a fence) and feed the cats. This is where I need some fine tuning. The cats act like they are dying of starvation in the morning, and surround me until I feed them. Aurora gets fed in the bathroom because she eats soft food (she's a diva and refuses hard food most of the time), while Piper and Rhoda eat in the kitchen or on the cat tree. While they eat, I prepare the dog bowls.

The dogs have a vitamin routine and they all eat different portions of food. I measure those out, put them in the bowls (Reagan eats out of a barrier bowl so she doesn't eat too fast), put the vitamins in the right bowls (They have three of the same, but Walter and Reagan have a couple additional vitamins for joints), and mix in a little bit of soft food for Walter, because he's as fussy as Wembley was and doesn't like eating his vitamins without something tasty. By the time all of this happens, the dogs are ready to eat and usually gathered on the back porch.

I let the hungry trio in, and they get fed. They are used to this system now, and if they stray from it they get frustrated and act crazy, as Alan usually finds out on the weekends (he gives me a feeding break).

Night feeding is WAY easier, because they usually get a treat here and there, and they're worn out from playing.

Sometimes it feels like madness, but in general it is a good system. I want to find an easier way to feed the cats. I won't just plunk a bowl of food down in the basement and have them free feeding all day, but I'm thinking a lunch portion is needed when the dogs are outside, just to alleviate their dramatic antics!



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