Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Ownership is now a very different responsibility

Today I took Bugsy to the vet for the last time.
It wasn't like it sounds, he is very alive, and surprisingly spry for his age, never mind the orthopedic issues he MUST have and the cancer.

We went today because he hasn't seen his 'regular' vet in a LONG time. She guided us and provided essential information during September and October when we were discovering what was causing him to be so flat.

It was odd though. We did a heartworm/parasite fecal test and that is it. No labs. I mean if it said his liver values were off, we wouldn't be doing anything so why test?

We discussed in-home euthanasia, which feels weird when your dog is bouncing around and stealing treats.

She asked how his eyesight was so I tossed a treat to him from the other side of the room and he caught it easily.
Eyesight - check

It is an odd point in your role of owner. I have prided myself on being proactive in taking good care of him and suddenly my role now is to just watch and wait.
We don't know where, when or how it will surface. But we know there isn't anything we can do to prevent it or extend his life.
In fact due to all his issues with meds, we don't even have palliative care options other than carprofen.

His weight is good, his energy is fine, lungs sound fine, his coat is shiny, he eats, drinks, poops and pees. I reprimand him at least once a walk and some another point during the day.
He still does a zoomie EVERY day. They are slower and shorter but they are still a zoomie. Tonight was inside :)

So for the first time in his life with us, no more vet care.
Ownership now is focused on doing what he and we love.
I have never been good at reckless abandon and no doubt I won't start now but I will be sure to do as many things with him as I can because we can.
I joked that he and I would be going out and sharing a beer and the vet said, "might as well, beer won't hurt him" LOL

So here's to a hedonistic future with my Bugsy. Well my version which is very limited hedonism.
I'll be checking my calendar for time for a beach trip
and a mountain trip
and of course we need to go to the lake a few times

And share a few pints

If there is one thing this crazy mutt has taught me is that life is to be lived.
I'll be damned if I am going to screw this up

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sometimes you get a whole lot more than you expect.

11 years ago Steve finally agreed to add a dog to our family. We both had in mind our neighbor's dog; the biggest, sweetest, laziest golden retriever you could ever meet. He laid around hoping for loving, he enjoyed his walks but never demanded one. On a walk he walked whatever pace you did, he laid down if you stopped to chat, and he just generally sashayed through life at an easy pace.

However the pup that stole my heart in an instant, wasn't a whole lot like sweet Cody, in fact he was yin to his yang.
And thus began the journey. My journey.
Many of you are in my life because of the journey. Don't get me wrong, Bugsy has always been a really good dog, he has just presented many challenges along the way.
I had a choice to make by week 2: become the owner this dog needs and deserves or consider re-homing him.  Fortunately I see challenges as opportunities for growth and was determined to find a way to communicate successfully with baby B.

11 years later, I am proud of the owner I have become in order to be the one he deserved. I have worked hard, I have the scars and aches to show for that. I am a stronger, happier, more determined, more resilient, more skilled and more grateful person than I would be, had I not had to make such a deep investment in him.

As I sit here tonight thinking about these 11 years, I know we don't have a lot of time left. I don't often feel the clock ticking but occasionally I look at the calendar; It's 11 weeks post splenectomy and we were told 3-6 months.
Usually when I have that thought, he does something to completely change my mindset, tonight it was stealing the toilet paper tube and parading around with it hoping for a chase..........the eternal puppy.

And that is one of his greatest gifts: Life is joyful, always.

Happy Gotcha day Bugsy. Thank you for asking me to dig deeper and invest in you. You have made me a better human and I promise to keep improving for as long as I exist, in your honor.

Friday, December 2, 2016

off to the beach

It's been a fun and full 9 weeks since the splenectomy.
The energy has been extraordinary, I mean EXTRAORDINARY.

All just adding to the legend of Bugsy Lee.
It's hard for humans to comprehend, he's flying through the air - literally - while you are thinking how sad it is he has terminal and aggressive cancer.

Lake trips with wild goose chases.
Long, FAST walks.
Puppy play.
Zoomies, zoomies and more ZOOMIES.

But this week, sleep.
Lots of sleep.
Deep sleep.

Visible discomfort.
Choosing to be next to me as much is possible.

My God the lumps.
We have this morning routine where he rolls around while I massage his joints, rub his belly, and feel for lumps.
Seems like new ones daily.
Small ones under the skin.
Large ones in the "belly".
And all sorts in between.

Because life is short.
Because you only have today once.
Because the light is fading and it will not be re-lit,
Tomorrow we will drive to the beach.

I want to see him feel the sand in his toes again,
I want to see his nose tilt up, ears flapping in the wind, taking in his universe.
I want to see his heart burst with joy
And I want to see and hear him sleep deeply, having given the day all he had.

Tomorrow we'll drive to the beach.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Seven weeks agp

7 weeks ago today we found out that Bugsy had a mass on his spleen and that  it was an aggressive cancer.
Life changed in this house on that day. For the humans at least.

Bugsy not so much.
Like most dogs he just wakes up in the morning, eats, drinks, pees, poops, explores and looks for trouble.
He takes things in stride so I took him for the surgery, he did well, he was a nightmare coming out of anesthesia, came home the next day and wanted to just get back to his life.
25 staples in his gut went unnoticed by him.
He immediately seemed better.
He gained some weight in the first week after losing for months

As has been our experience, the toughest part of post op was trying to keep him from being too active and crazy.

Two weeks post op, staples removed, we headed to the beach and he was Bugsy. Running, zooming, digging.
People would ask about his shave and I'd tell him he just had his spleen removed and had aggressive cancer and was 11+.  I will see their faces forever.
My amazing dog, a force of nature.
He defies his age, his injuries, his illness.

Tonight 7 weeks post-diagnosis of a cancer they gave him 3-6 months to survive, he remains well.
Happy, cheeky, active. Silly, loving, and pushy.

The world is in turmoil but my dog and I inhabit a warm, fuzzy, silly place.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The cancer roller coaster

I'll get straight to the point of this post: We were told via cytology and biopsy that Bugsy's tumor was a histiocytic sarcoma - a localized version that unfortunately had attacked the spleen.
For the record splenic carcinomas are BAD.

But the surgeon - who I respect highly - mentioned there were additional tests that are more specific. So I agreed to do them.

Would you believe it came back NOT histiocytic sarcoma?
If you know Bugsy and his history, you would.

The surgeon was happy. Our regular vet was happy. I was fairly happy.
I sent the lab report to my good friend that works at the vet school and she shared it with one of the oncologists.
Well the fact it's a rare cancer was confirmed. So rare that there aren't many studies on it - he provided snapshots of three, one was 20 yrs old - and no real idea as to what if any chemo helps.
Still feeling buoyed by all the vets saying this was still better than histiocytic sarcoma I was hit hard by the oncologist statement that it wasn't a "better' diagnosis due to the "high mitotic index".
For inquiring minds it is termed a "nonangiomatous and nonlymphomatous splenic sarcoma".

So that is the background.

Bugsy has continued to feel quite well ( according to observation) and that means that he is constantly living on the edge of being in trouble.  Which has kept me from really thinking about the situation.

In the evenings it hits me pretty hard, it's odd, all of a sudden I think, "OMG no Bugsy?"
I truly cannot imagine and I wind up sobbing. But it passes quickly. All very strange as it is literally a wave that passes as quickly as it arrived.

The last few days have been a bit tougher. Due to his obsessive digging at the beach, the return to daily zoomies and not being on adequan for a couple of months, his shoulder is killing him.
It isn't too bad but then he decides to zoom.  Once it's over he can barely walk but he doesn't seem to regret the decision to zoom.

It reminds me of how weak he is. I rub the shoulder or massage his upper back and am so aware of the muscle loss.
I want to remove the pain so he can enjoy life to the full these last months.

I want to hold him (which occassionally he'll allow). I want him to know how much he's loved and that it is OK if he doesn't want to zoom.

The beauty of Bugs is that he WILL zoom, likely beyond when it is even physically possible. Because his heart explodes with joy.

And here are the tears.
I have been exceptionally blessed to have such a beast in my life for so long.  I still can't picture life without him.
Tonight I'll listen to his sleeping sounds and drink in all that I can.
I'll allow that slow deep breathing to calm me and to bring me to peace and sleep.

Good night sweet boy, thank you for all you do, even the bad things.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Here we are at the Atlantis, where we have visited 2x a year throughout most of Bugsy's life.
This is the place where I think we realized that people were drawn to him. I cannot recall a stay here where we didn't wind up in a long conversation with someone about him; what is he? wow he's handsome, people stopping to laugh at his antics, in the later years people commenting on how well-behaved and sweet he is.
In some bizarre way, I think all dog owners feels some sense of pride when people compliment their dog, even if it has nothing to do with the human. I am no different.
I have enjoyed the attention as it wasn't on me (which I find uncomfortable) and Bugsy absolutely loves it.
The comments on how well-behaved he is still elicit a wry smile from me. If only they knew the REAL Bugsy.

This trip though it's a little different.
Sure he's made canine and human friends and the compliments have been numerous.
However, this time people see the shaved belly and ask.
So I tell them he had his spleen removed less than 3 wks ago.
Then they say something similar to, "wow he's doing great! is everything going to be OK?"
"hmm, no. He has cancer, the prognosis is poor"

Then comes the but he's so young, he looks so healthy, my goodness he is beautiful and sweet.
A few have teared up, I imagine they too have lost a dog they love.
They love on him and he eats it up.

My heart pretty much fills and explodes.

I trot along the beach with him, still reminding him he is supposed to be WITH me.
We play in the sea.
He greets all the dogs and remains non-plussed with the ones that want to take a chunk out of him
He sticks his head in the mini garbage can (this is a beach only habit)
Nose punches the fridge
Digs in the sand, being sure to have you in the line of the flying sand.
He scours the beach for crabs to hunt.

And he goes up and down the 3 flights of stairs to our room first thing in the morning, last of the night and multiple times a day with no additional effort.

They are just an obstacle between places he wants to be and things he wants to do.

To him this trip to the beach is just like the others but with more naps.

I haven't done too badly at being there with him, but when folks ask about the shaved belly I am thrust back to reality.

So, kind strangers, please don't ask. Let my boy and I pretend we are just hanging at the beach as we always do this time of year.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Happy 11th birthday

Happy 11th birthday Bugsy. When I selected this day to be your appointed birthday, I chose it because I knew a great human who was born on Sept. 1st and who lived 101. I thought it might be a good omen to share her birthday.
I have too many feelings and thoughts to write here about how fortunate I am to have been adopted by you.
I will say this, you inspire me every day. EVERY day. You fascinate me and entertain me. I try to replicate your genuine gratitude and joy to live. I try to be the kind and strong soul that you are.
I promise to do all that I can to comfort you as you age and to continue to be the owner you deserve.
Love you buddy.

PS could you let me in on your secret to not graying - I am losing the battle!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Follow the path that lies in front of you (and a huge thank you to all my dog connections!)

Today I did my first transport leg for a rescue organization.
I have wanted to this for years but my life and the path never collided. 
This time it did.

The texts had started early, telling of her progress, so my mind was on this all day long.

It is a simple task but it feels important. Just meet one person/car and drive to somewhere to hand the dog to another person/car.  
But it FEELS good!

I discovered it was a puppy and only 25lbs so I ran out to buy a crate for safety.   And I bought a couple of cute collars and a leash.............and a cute pink bag to put it all in. And treats.

I packed toys, water, a bowl, secured the crate in my very suitable car, added some cushioning and hurtled down I-95 to meet the previous transporter.

As I prepped , I had a quick question of crate size; I reached out to my Facebook friends. As I tagged people in the post I had to start laughing because it would have been easier to add everyone and just untag a few people.
Over my 10+ years of Bugsy ownership (er, management) I have connected with extraordinary people. 
"dog people"

My experience of adopting Bugsy from our SPCA turned me into an advocate and fundraiser for the SPCA
My experience of owning the devil in black/brown fur brought me to many - MANY - of you for help.
By knowing you, I met other people who did great things for dogs in need.
Each of you prepared me for today. 

Today one friend quipped I was, "the best prepared transporter ever"
Damn that made me smile - you all taught me good.
I can't list all of you as I would forget someone for sure. 
I hate when folks say, "you know who you are", but you do.

You taught me to open my heart.
You taught me how important this is.
This being anything you can do to help.

The dog community is a community of big-hearted people who step up. Proud to have joined you.
Thanks for grooming me.

The other day I shared this:

Time is the most valuable thing a person can spend. -Theophrastus

Very true.

It is also the thing that when you spend it, you get the best reward.

So a heart felt thank you to each of you, you do know who you are.
I promise to keep following the path that unfolds 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

I take my chances

Weeks away from the day we'll celebrate his 11th birthday, he and I went for a hike today.
Great park in the middle of North Carolina that promised mountains (albeit short ones) and a big river. (Morrow Mountain State Park)
The weather was about as good as you can ask for in August in NC; overcast, humid, but reasonable temps (77 at the start and 88 when we finished).

No need for a blow by blow of the day - it is all bittersweet at this point. He's been struggling all summer and other than "he's old" we don't have much to understand why. His one rear leg is bothering him and we attribute it to arthritis from the knee repair.
This means that we didn't hike miles and miles, just a few. One mountain trail and one by the river. We both enjoyed ourselves.

Although much has changed in his 11 years, one thing has not: the Beast only knows how to trot at a mighty clip. Apparently walking just isn't part of his makeup.
Today's mountain trail was covered in slices of rock - I don't think it was shale but it reminded me of shale in that it was sharp shards. I worried about his paws as he trotted and at times slipped as the gravel moved under his feet.  He never slowed, worried or seemed to notice.
Another habit that has been a constant is to walk on the very edge of mountain trails so that one wrong move and you're off the trail and on a descent.
Concerned about his less agile creaky joints I tried to move him away from the edge.

Nope not going to happen.
Each time the scree moved under his feet my heart jumped.
He survived, my heart survived and this song kept running through my head.
Definitely a theme song for him. "I Take My Chances"

So great to take a road trip and be on the trails again with my buddy, his desire hasn't faded one bit, but his body has.  
All part of the life cycle and I am so very lucky to have him and be able to do what we did today. 
I admit it's hard to see him work so hard to achieve what his heart wants to do though.

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