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

Monday, June 22, 2015

The new normal

Well it's been weeks of short walks and no squirrel chasing and the right rear lameness is no better really
Sure he isn't in screaming pain, but it is significant.
He rarely puts full weight on that leg, he has figured out how to run down the stairs while still protecting it.
Protecting it has put lots more wear and tear on his bad shoulder so now he is limping front and back.
Rimadyl and a Pepcid are every other day treats.
We swim 1-2x a week and he is physically a mess the day after.

We walk at 5 during the week, which he is so excited to do but is so hard on him.
I was walking him this morning, trying to smile as he, with his crooked gait, made his way down the street, working hard to trot because he hasn't ever thought walking was an option.
I stand and wait while he sniffs and investigates. I worry about how late it's getting and I stop myself because I think, "this is his activity for the day"
We have been mired in 100* weather so there are no other opportunities for fun outside until the next morning.
There isn't much training I can do with him inside as he still gets so hyper that he is a danger to himself.
I teared up this morning as I thought about my happy, vibrant boy who is trapped in a body that is failing him.
He has so much drive still, it's what allows him to do what he does.
The pain must still be severe, you only need to observe him to notice.

His nose and paws remain irritated, nothing helps.
I see hair loss on his tail and near his eyes.

I wish someone could tell me what is wrong with him.
I wish I knew what to test for.

In the meantime, I will walk him at 5am and we'll take as long as we take.
I will take him heron hunting, I mean swimming, at least once per week.

And I will enjoy his new found snuggliness.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

How do you spell determined? B-U-G-S-Y

A brief update on the boy.
Not much has changed for the good or for worse.

He is obviously in significant pain, every day all day.

The epicenter is the right hind leg however ever since the CT scan he has pain in his left hock down to his foot. I don't know how much it hurts during his normal stuff but he is horribly worried if I attempt to touch the area and quivers as I massage or inspect it.

So at this point, he has significant pain in his right rear leg.
And his rear left hock to foot.
And of course the repaired left shoulder/elbow.
Leaves me wondering how long the front right leg is going to hold up.

If you came to visit him, you'd see none of this.
You'd be greeted in HIS way, wagging, whining, wiggling, joyously holding a toy in his mouth for you.
He'd be bouncy and oh so happy to see you.
Inside I know you'll be thinking, "gosh Karen needs to get a grip, this dog is fine"

But he isn't.

Each morning he wants so desperately to walk. So I head out with him.
His gait is awful.
It is broken, he is broken.
In body but Lord he isn't broken in spirit.
You can actually see him fighting the pain and broken gait until he can smooth it out and strut like he has always strutted.
Part of me smiles and part of me cries.
It is a mighty effort.
His intensity and determination is awe-inspiring.
So is the pride.
I try to shorten the walk and he will outright refuse or like this morning when we get to the crossroads and right means short walk and left means longer walk, he heads left cutting out the corner entirely.
Message to human; Not today, I'm going long.

The effort takes its toll. His tongue hangs long and the panting is great.
Once home it's time for pain relief and a nap.
His body needs rest and because he did his 'job' and surveyed his kingdom (the 'hood) he CAN rest.

And so now he'll nap for hours and I will ponder what is at the root of this and if there is any more I can provide.

I look at him with tremendous admiration and sorrow.
Simultaneously I feel so fortunate to have had this amazing creature in my life and heartbroken that the road ahead appears short and painful.

He however, has seemingly accepted this new level of pain as the new reality.
Heck he is even back to running up and down the stairs with the trademark leap off the last few which took quite some adaption on his part because that right rear leg is not capable of doing it in a normal fashion.
Sigh, I love this beast.

His focus and determination and joy are something to behold.
Just wish he wasn't having to fight so much pain

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Happy 50th to me

On Saturday morning I will wake up and officially be 50 years old.
Really, it is incredible.
I know lots of people that stress about aging, and some of the changes associated with aging are hard to feel good about, however I admit that there is something about these milestones that somehow feel like an achievement to me.
I mean 50 freaking years old!!
Me, ha!

I think it was in March that I started to think wow, this is pretty cool. And I began to think about, well lots of things.
And the whole time I was thinking about it, I was I am now.

Being an introvert, I have always had small circles of friends and have avoided large celebrations all my life as I don't particularly feel comfortable with them.
This is no different.
I had lunch with one group of colleagues today and will celebrate with another group of colleagues tomorrow.
Saturday, Steve & I have plans to enjoy the evening and of course I will spend my morning with my furry buddy because few things in my 50 yrs have brought me the peace and pleasure of kayaking with him alongside me.
Part of me wants a larger gathering, only happiness allowed.
That might happen at some point.

I have traveled to 42 states and 8 countries.
Lived in 8 states and 2 countries.
I have performed Mahler and Brahms (amongst others) with professional symphonies and a wide assortment of jazz in more settings than I could list.

I have run marathons and biathlons. Competed in Div. I athletics.
Attained multiple degrees.
Been piss poor and enjoyed times of good earnings.

I have had so many different jobs along the way, and I never hated one of them.
I have enjoyed some more than others though, ;)

It hasn't been a smooth ride, I have had myriad significant health problems, which probably accounts for my sense that me, being 50, is quite something.

I, like all people, have had emotional struggles and internal battles. To me though, these are not to be seen as 'unfair', they are part of life. And if we face them, and work through them, our life is richer.

I am one of the lucky ones.
I believe that with every fiber of my being.

Years ago someone sent one of those silly polls and it asked, "what is the first thing you think of when you wake up?"
I said, "woohoo! I am still alive! Another day awaits!"
Steve shook his head and laughed and we still laugh about it today.
Kidding aside, it is a blessing that I truly believe that everytime you wake up in the morning, it's a good day.

Another blessing is that I have always loved a challenge. Challenge me and I will be energized and excited.
As life hands all of us challenges, I am certainly aware that I am fortunate that I don't fear those challenges, they motivate me.

Lastly, I cannot omit how fortunate I am that some higher being brought Bugsy to me.
Just weeks after adopting him, Steve said, "Good God I have adopted the canine version of you"
We did.
Although I am convinced that Bugsy's soul is a higher being than I am, we share many things.
Dog folks talk about heart dogs.
Bugsy is my heart dog.
How lucky am I that we wandered into the shelter and came home with the dog whose soul was such a match for mine?
The challenges he presented were opportunities for my growth.
Through the years our bond has been built on similarities, challenges, and adventures.
I know others have had heart dogs, there are no words that describe the emotions well.

So, happy 50 to me.
My life has been rich, rewarding, challenging, and far more than would have been predicted from my beginnings.

I wish that I could send a thank you to each and every person that has made a difference to me.
I hope that if I think it and wish it hard enough, it is felt in their hearts.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

It was a beautiful morning and then it wasn't

My poor Bugsy hasn't been right in quite some time.
We ran tests and gave some meds, nothing specific showed up and the meds didn't do much really.
I still have this sense that something more than aging is going on.
Despite this, he is as eager as ever for his morning walks and today was no different.

It was a cold morning but the sun was already rising, the sky was colorful and heading towards that unreal shade of blue we get so often down here.
Loads and loads of bird activity and the earth was smelling Spring-like despite the frosted surface.

As we made our way through our fairly scenic neighborhood I kept thinking about how fortunate I am to have this boy that demands his morning walks. I have seen so many things I would never have noticed.
His focus and intensity - we don't just wander, his walk is a mission - spellbind me and I hunt alongside him.
This brings even more into my experience that I would otherwise miss.

When we got to the turnaround I asked him if he want to keep going or go home, after a quick head tilt he turned the corner and trotted on.
At the next turnaround, I said, "are you ready for home or do you want a drink", less hesitation, we were heading through the woods to the lake.

We were enjoying the scenery and he was exploring but I was on a schedule so I called him back to me and said come on let's head home.
He kindly (thankfully) obeyed and trotted right past me on to the trail.
And then it happened.

He fell down.
Just typing it makes me sick all over again.
Everything was fine and then it was like he collapsed.
I looked at the area and there was no hole.
There was no reason for him to trip or fall.

When he fell, he didn't instantly pop up, he laid there and looked at me, VERY unnerved.
My heart stopped.
My phone had died so I couldn't call my husband if Bugsy couldn't walk.
And poor B looked so very confused and although he was up and moving, he looked horribly uncomfortable.
I checked over each limb and did some stretches. No sign that anything really hurt, but he was walking so bizarrely.
No need to bore you with more details I guess, we made it home.
I gave him rimadyl and then had to rush out to a memorial service for a friend's dad.

When I came home he was happy, silly Bugsy and he even was out helping me in the yard for ages. No sign of whatever happened.

By writing this post I know I have recorded the first time his hind end gave in.
I know it is our future.
I know I have to emotionally and physically prepare for it.
I'm not ready.

Then again, the memorial service I went to today was a true celebration of life.
I know when Bugsy's time comes, I will focus on celebrating his life.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pub dog, rugby dog, it's all fun

As I sit here tonight, listening to the great Beast sleeping heavily next to me, I am pondering the smiles he has provided today and how 'buddy-like' he is now.
You see as a young pup and onward through his middle age - he never really wanted you to touch him.
He wanted to sleep away from you and given half a chance he was off hunting for himself or exploring on his own.
It feels extra special now when he chooses to 'hang' with you. 
When he allows you to pet him or even sometimes cuddle him.

Heck this dog that hated to be touched, will now allow you to - in fact he'll help you - to put a shirt or a jacket on him.
For instance, earlier today hubby and I were watching a rugby match between England and Ireland and decided it would be cute if Bugsy wore hubby's jersey.
I held up the jersey and Bugsy lifted a front leg, helped me guide his foot through the armhole and repeated it for the other side. Remarkable. He even posed for a photo.

I love the tail.  He's never figured out exactly what to do with it when he sits.

Unfortunately, England got thumped. But we all enjoyed the match.

Our weather has been awful lately and we've all been couped up so I promised him we'd go to the pub.
It can be a challenge to take B to the pub. He gets very excited and he is still very, very strong.
He wants to say hey to all dogs and humans and pretty much is overly social, so I work very hard to try to get him to just chill out and relax.
I continue to refine my setup so I have hands available for holding the leash and distraction.
Today, we were a team.
A really smooth, happy, coordinated team.

It was fairly quiet and everyone there was happy to meet the Beast. Lots of young men find him a blast, so on a miserable Sunday afternoon at a brewery near a university you definitely see plenty of young men, meaning Bugsy got to meet a bunch of people and got lots of pets.
He also met some other dogs, none were as social as he is however one pretty girl was close.
I was mesmerized by one dog who just sat next to her owner, uninterested in any people, snacks, dogs or anything at all.

It was by far our best pub outing. I like to think that if we did it regularly, he'd get easier and easier to settle.
For now, I'll resort to feeding bits of kibble, as long as he is lying down.

Monday, February 23, 2015

I miss my crazy puppy, but I love my sweet older boy

Today I wasn't feeling too well. Migraine/sinus stuff and overall feeling crummy. 
The weather was pretty miserable, cold and rainy, so I had no interest in taking him for his daily walk.
This usually leads to a very challenging day for me. A day in which every movement I make equals a vigorous response from him - a call to action so to speak.
Today though we just chilled out. We had a few short plays but overall he was quite content to watch out the window and lie near me snoring away, as he is now. 

Here he is this morning, resting his head on his rabbit and his elephant toys.

I feel very thankful for this softening and sweetening of my boy.
Even though, I miss that super intense crazy pup too.
You're a good dog Bugs.
Nah, you are an awesome dog!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

sick, schmick, let's get back to trying to break myself

So for the first time in him 9.5 yrs Bugsy was sick the other week. 
Like, you're good I'll just stay in bed sick.
no vomiting or diarrhea, also no appetite, but Lord was he drinking water

Anyway, we went to the vet, he was running a pretty high fever and we are still waiting to see if he tests positive for tick borne disease but he's been getting better quite steadily.

Today, we went to see the orthopedic vet who did his knee repair and we've quite honestly visited more than I would like to admit. Back in December, Bugsy seemed to start having problems with his TPLO knee or so I thought.
I presumed it might pass or that it was just plain old arthritis build up. But it didn't pass and he is still doing the stairs really oddly so I made this appointment 3 weeks ago.

A fairly quick, yet thorough work up and our lovely Dr Gallagher pronounced it to mostly likely be sciatica. He had mild spinal stenosis way back in 2009 so the fact it has progressed isn't a shock. He might also have a bulging disc. Never mind, says Bugsy, there is life to live.

So here is my boy, still on meds for the fever and soft poop, still doing a funky dance on the stairs due to sciatica but wild as he has ever been.

We had a nice and active Saturday and then came Sunday.
For many, this is seen as a day of rest.
For Bugsy I think he sees this as a day to CAUSE cardiac a-rrest

It began early when he spotted the neighbor's 5 mo old pup. She is a wild creature and very Bugsy-like in her joyful and active approach to life.
They ran and chased and spun around in circles until we were dizzy and I wanted my breakfast.

Then we went for a walk. A long walk. 
And truthfully, Bugsy doesn't walk. He trots. He'll run if you let him.
We met up with his 16 mo old GSP buddy and they pulled us along until we could let them off lead.
After some field play with the sudden heat we said, "let's take them down to the lake for a drink."

Oh sure you know that was a wild time. Some swimming, some chasing, and basic shenanigans abounded.

Then it really got wild.
We wanted the teach the 16 mo old to dock dive.
We failed epically.
And a version of chaos I have not witnessed before broke out.
The 16 mo old was going crazy in the water and then Bugsy lost his mind and his ability to control himself.
He started flying off the dock - not into water - onto small boulders and logs.
The drop was about 4-6ft depending on the area.
He would jump off the dock to one side, jump back on the dock, fly off to a side, jump back up.
Ran under the dock and jumped back up again.
Repeat until I nearly collapsed waiting for him to jump off and not be able to get up.
It was a massive case of the zoomies and LONG ago I learned the only thing to do was become motionless and wait it out. 
Any vocal instructions or movement only fuel the fire.

Amazingly, he was fine even after a concerning wipeout.
He walked home, er, trotted home without a hint of ache.

We had already promised a couple we'd meet them at a local brewery and I will admit I expected to have to cancel.
Nope. He remained bouncy and happy and as soon as he saw me moving as if going somewhere he was READY.

So off to the pub where he had to meet lots of people and dogs and continued to be vibrant and fine.

He finished his Sunday with a visit from a friend whom he loves to entertain.

I was sure he'd wake on Monday looking like the beat-up old guy he is.
Nope, fine and dandy.
In fact he walked about 4 miles before finally chillaxin' during the afternoon.

So that is how my 9.5 yr old XL Beast demonstrates he is suffering from sciatica and perhaps a tick borne illness.