Saturday, May 14, 2016

A microcosm of life

The first time we brought Bugsy to the beach he was under a year. He was insane and still had a feral edge, meaning he was like a wild stallion and had no hope of getting off leash.
We hoped that he would settle next to the lounge chair and we'd all chill out. I still remember that at about 6:30 PM as we tried to eat dinner, he was still bouncing and driving us mad. We put him in his crate and he literally fell asleep before we could slide the locks.
I recall the looks we got on the beach and how exhausted Steve & I were.
Over the years, we progressed and found a system to release his energy, give us some relaxation & enjoy our trips.
One thing has been the same; Bugsy absolutely feels he should greet all dogs and all humans who come down the steps to the beach.
In the early days, people gave him a wide berth, he was clearly an oversized nutcase. Owners with high energy dogs were happy though, as he was always ready to play.
Fast forward to now.
He still wants to meet and greet all.
He still wants to run and play, although for MUCH shorter times with long naps and rest periods in between.
Nowadays though, he's the gentle giant and "a sweet baby". People stop and pet him and he just eats it up.
Like many dogs, you see that people connect to him. They want to know his name and find out his story.
We met a guy this morning and were just chatting a short time. We chatted about dogs and aging.  After we wrapped up, he walked off and a couple walked down that had two golden retrievers. Bugsy LOVES goldens so he was desperate to play with them, doing all sorts of playbows and zoomies.
More than 30 minutes later, the man we had met earlier came back from his walk. He came over and said, "boy he wanted to play with those goldens, didn't he?" You could tell it made the man happy to see the old dog want to play.
Another guy stopped by to engage in chat and pet Bugsy 4x today; with breed guesses, a cracker, to tell us who he reminded him of, and to give B a pet & get a kiss.

Back in the day, the folks that stopped and chatted were people fascinated by B's physical stature and energy. Now they stop to love my sweet boy, who ignores the irritable dogs, who never barks, and who knows the routine so appears very well behaved.

Back in 2006 when we first stayed here with him, if you had told me how easy to manage he'd be when here, I could not have believed you.

Today, although I hate seeing how much he sleeps; I marvel at his behavior, manners, and demeanor. That big old love-filled heart is more accessible to everyone and he is ever so happy to share it.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

the reality of it all

I count my blessings daily as my sweet crazy boy remains sweet, crazy and active.
There are plenty of signs that it won't stay that way for long though. Last May we were told he had a heart murmur. At first I laughed. The dog who had the heart and lungs of a Kenya runner with a heart murmur?
So my vet checked it out (after laughing it off as I did) and lo and behold my boy had suddenly developed a heart murmur.
I didn't think anything of it as there was no indication of it impacting him.

Fast forward to about 2 months ago when I first noticed that his mouth seemed pale, very pale. He'd been very excited at the time and with my knowledge of anatomy and physiology I realized that it was related to the murmur and not a good sign, he wasn't getting enough oxygen.
The good news is that the color comes back once he settles a bit.
The bad news is Bugsy tends to get excited regularly and also stays excited for quite some time.

On Friday he was removing a treat from a toy - as he does multiple times a day - and he suddenly popped up and looked spooked. When he got up he was clearly in pain  (best assessment was neck pain) and remained so all day and into Saturday although the carprofen had helped. I noticed that when his neck was bad his front left foot was cool to touch, not cold, cooler than the other three feet.
He was using it fine and showed no lack of sensitivity but the coolness was yet another sign of poor circulation.

So tonight I am sad. Really sad.
Few things will hurt as badly as losing him.

Until then, we will be enjoying life, I promised him years ago that there would be no heroics, no insanity. Quality of life is our goal.

Bugsy, I promise that I will do something with you everyday that makes your eyes light up the way only yours do.
I will not drag you through extensive veterinary examinations and diagnostic tests.
We'll live buddy.
Day by day.
Sunrise by sunrise.

When you cannot be you. When you cannot enjoy a sunrise, I will set you free.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Who's walking who?

I am the kind of person who generally accepts the imperfections of life.
From the day we brought baby B home I attempted to have him walk at my side instead of out in front.
All attempts, using every known training method (well humane and reasonable ones) failed.
Somewhere after 4 or 5 yrs I gave up.
He walks out in front, he isn't pulling, but he's out in front.
Many who walk with us love to play a silly game of getting out in front of him, which inspires him to gallop into the lead.

When we do a walk at a large event, he charges to the front. I don't fight it, I plan for it and use my human intelligence to devise a strategy that minimizes the impact on me.

There's an older couple that are new to our neighborhood who have on multiple occasions seen us and shouted, "who is walking who?" and I respond with a smile, "he's my personal trainer, walks me everyday!"

It is never as clear that this is the case as it is on our 5am walks. This morning was foggy but with a full or nearly full moon lighting our way. He was tired and I was as usual half asleep. When he is tired it is easier to see that he totally perceives walking me as one of his jobs.
He waits at the back door while I pick a jacket, grab some tissues, find my spare house key, etc.
Then we go into the garage and he waits for me to put his lighted vest or harness on and stands just outside the side door, back to me, just waiting for me to exit and close up the house.
Once I clip the leash on, he becomes almost robotic. It makes me LOL as he hits his stride and has this, "let's get this job done" attitude.
He's out in front setting a speedy pace, surveying, looking for critters, or a new branch or decoration to be investigated.
He pees, he poops, knows the route so never even glances back to check in with me.
After pooping is done, the trot is constant, no more sniffing, heading home now, out walking my mom.
Once home, he has a drink, and waits for his kibble.
On tired days, he goes right to his bed and is asleep in an instant.

So yes elderly grumpy couple - he walks me everyday. And I am totally fine with it.
I wonder some days, when he's both tired and clearly those banged up old joints aren't working real well, what I'll do when he's gone. Who'll walk me then?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

RIP Bella, the love of a dog; a dog of love

I can still see that moment; me walking Mr Confident, a week or so out of the shelter, strutting his stuff through the neighborhood, proudly showing off his human(s)
She was a yellow fluff-ball, who would walk 10 or 15 yards and then lie down.
He was so thrilled to meet a new friend and she immediately went belly up as he approached. Something canine occurred and she responded to him, not with fear but with relief; he was her protector.
Just babies

That never changed.
Her owners and I scheduled regular playdates and walks; she would walk with him, but without him, she'd lie down regularly.
We learned early on that the roles were reversed in water, being a golden, in the water she was a natural swimmer, and it was Bugsy that would stand chest deep and whine as she swam off to retrieve the toy.

On the play-dates I'd bring bones for them and she'd eat both of them and he was OK with that, she could have whatever she wanted.
Bugsy and Bella even had a wedding
So many wonderful smiles
So much love

In the last few months Bella's owner & I have talked about how they were both declining. It's inevitable and for her, she'd owned goldens for ages and knew their health issues, for me I have this over-sized mutt who's had a zillion health issues since puppyhood.
We brought them together a few weeks back and watched them play but mostly both dogs boldly stole food off the patio table as if saying, "ah yea, we know the rules, but we are too old to care"
Sweet Bella, my heart breaks, for your family and for my Bugsy. I am not sure how he'll know or when he'll know, but I do know that he'll cry and whine when we pass your house as he always has.
And he'll do his best to drag me to the back fence to let him in.
Your beautiful smile will be missed.
You were loved and you loved.

So much is said in this photo, 2007
Here they are in 2010, pure joy

Bella, you are already missed. Thank you for being my Bugsy's girl, for being my sweet girl, and for all the smiles. Swim free and fast. Catch that pesky squirrel. Eat all the pub cheese. Steal Bugsy's bones and kiss your beautiful girls.
He'll meet you again.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Goodbye 2015, hello 2016

Hard to believe another year has passed, like each previous year, there were ups and downs, however we are all here to ring in 2016 so I call that a win.

Bugsy has had a rough year, I refuse to count up my vet bills for this year.
However, "Bugsy badger don't care", so they'll be no recounting of the woes.

Twice I was told his time would be coming to an end within weeks or months.  I can only confess that I spent a lot of time, preparing myself.  In each case, the issues resolved and he kept marching on.

He and his friend Paxton aka Bumbles have continued their adventures and laughter inducing antics.

And Bugsy still always greets me with gifts upon my arrival

In an interesting development - the Beast fetched a stick!!

In April, Bugsy and I completed a bucket list event when we headed out to the Northwest mountains of NC, in the midst of a typhoon. No really it was REALLY wet.
No matter.
We wandered in the rain and listened to it pelting our little 19th century cabin.

Or if you are Bugsy, you go outside and stick your head through the railings so you can 'feel' the rain as well as see and smell it.

We hiked some trails along the New River, all alone. Apparently everyone else had more sense.

I learned Bugsy isn't afraid of heights; he was obsessed with the view at the edge!

Then was one of the best moments we've shared (from my perspective), we climbed Mount Jefferson, on a frigidly cold morning. It was truly an exceptional experience for me.

We drove to the beach to visit our Canadian friends and true to form Bugsy and Bradley greeted each other as if they never are out of touch.

Then came our beach trip - it wasn't the smoothest beach trip. First Bugsy and I went along with Pax and his mom but Steve stayed home.

Then Steve arrived as Bugsy and I headed back to Raleigh for him to have a CT scan at the vet school.
Then we drove back to the beach and enjoyed one of our favorite places on earth.

Of course the year was filled with lots and lots of kayaking. Here's a great video of the boys on a 'wild goose' chase.

In late August Steve, Bugsy and I headed to the mountains again, this time to a fancier cabin much more suited to Mr Lee's preferences.
We watched the sunsets and sunrises from the wonderful wrap around porch.
While I miss my young dog, I love my old dog who's by my side much more often

In October we were back at the beach, this time meeting more Canadians!!! The weather was perfect and we all enjoyed a fabulous break from reality.
Bugsy was turbo- charged and brought smiles to many. On the ride home I heard this song and thought, ya know, this is just perfect.

Bugsy was thrilled to have multiple visitors stay with us, so thanks to Chris, Mike and Mom.

A year filled with friends and fun, plenty of smiles, loads of laughter, and some of the warmest, heart-filling moments a life can have.
For everyday that featured this:

We had lots of this:

Thanks for reading!
Lots of love, 
Bugsy & Karen

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Counting my blessings

In the last few weeks, several friends have had to say goodbye to their beloved dogs.
These were not "just dogs", these were best friends, constant companions, hearts.
I never met any of these dogs or the friends, however I knew the dogs and I knew how their human loved them. And I know how big the hole in their heart is.

Twice this summer I thought I'd lose Bugsy. It wasn't my imagination, it was the projected diagnosis from highly accomplished specialist veterinarians. In each case, we had to wait nearly 2 weeks to get answers. I prepared my heart for the worst and began to think about how I'd know it was 'time' and what life without him would look like.
So although I haven't had to live that yet, I know how large the whole in my life will be.

Fast forward to today, as I sit on the porch of a cabin, high in the mountains of North Carolina, enjoying his very Bugsy antics; such as knowing he isn't supposed to go to the edge of the slope but doing it again and again after he makes sure to catch my eye and with his tail wagging that "I am the devil" wag or jumping on and off the porch instead of using the steps.
Taking him for off-leash walks down the steep gravel road and observing his investigations (including finding and eradicating the threat of a black snake skin).
Admiring his adaptability to new environments, swiftly seeing each new place as his homestead. Yesterday morning we saw his body stiffen, nose to the air, and he took off. Two loose collarless dogs were running up the gravel drive, about 100 ft from the cabin however he had smelled them, sensed them prior to them becoming visible. He stopped in his tracks on my whistle.

We'll celebrate his 10th birthday in a few days: he is a bit slower but remains frenetic. He sleeps more and more deeply. His muzzle has just the slightest hints of gray, of course the skin "issue" has patches of affectation in various locations. Still powerful, despite the muscle loss, when he stands at attention, nose to the air, he has an elegance or majesty about him. The size, power and confidence combine to make it easy to believe in him.

I am rambling now. I blame the beautiful vista in front of me.

I realize I am exceptionally fortunate to still have Bugsy and still have him so him.
I mourn with my friends for their losses.
And I am sad for those that have never loved a dog the way my friends loved theirs and how I love Bugsy.  I have said this before, I think his soul is one of the greatest I've had in my life. When he's gone, all the lessons I have learned from him will remain, my soul is forever improved for having him in my life.

Knowing that the time ahead of us is shorter than the time we've had, I see each day as a blessing

Sunday, August 2, 2015

lessons in perspective

it's been a difficult summer for Bugsy although he'd say it's been great
It feels like every week has had a vet visit for one thing or another.
Last week I asked him if he wanted to come to work with me and he leapt into the car ready for what adventure met him.
Sadly it was a day at the surgeon's having 7 biopsies.
The next day when I left for work he bolted out of the door and excitedly waited by my tailgate ready to come to work.
I felt sad. Poor dog really wants to go anywhere with me even if it's the vet's.
He tried the same thing the next day.
He is not easily dissuaded.

It is this eternal hope and excitement joy that makes Bugsy, Bugsy. Sure lots of dogs are happy, he takes it up a notch though.

Today the surgical sites must have been feeling better, he was bouncy and cheeky all day long.
In the late afternoon some friends came to visit that we haven't seen in a few years. You'd have thought they were his long lost owners.
First he nearly tackled the female as she tried to get out of her car, then once she did get out he jumped in the car, dug around and came out with a half full water bottle and trotted around with his trophy.
He jumped and trotted and flung his water bottle only to pounce on it.

Literally for hours he was entertainment. With toys and cheekiness, he kept everyone laughing.

I, of course, was thinking, OMG those surgical sites are destroyed!!!

After several hours of him behaving like the nuisance he was at 2, I put him to bed.
His cone is on.
His foot unwrapped.
And finally after about 30 minutes of trying to get out of the bedroom, he sleeps.
Oh the benadryl may be a factor too.

The footpad that has been troublesome is looking worse for the wear
A front footpad was reopened.
Two other sites had been bleeding.

I imagine all of which hurt somewhat.

But if you asked the Beast, I am sure he'd tell you about the piece of blue cheese he got, how he stole someone's shoe off their foot, that he finally destroyed the bunny toy once and for all, that he got to sip beer after he bumped someone's arm so they spilled from their glass, how he helped cook burgers, got a chip someone dropped, etc.

It is impossible to not be taken in by his positive energy (and there is a lot of energy) Happily I ride along with him and understand that although sometimes I have to put a premature end to his circus tricks to benefit him, mostly I can let that joy flow.

The void he will leave behind will be gaping. In a week's time we may receive news that tells us that is sooner, rather than later.

Pray for this happiest of dogs. He has far too much life in him for his here to be over