Category Archives: Adopting Dogs

Going to the Dogs: A Forced Series on Canine Arrhythmia

go to the dogs
Meaning: become ruined, often by excess or neglect

Tonight’s pre-bed pastime has devolved into watching Dub lick himself. He started at the front, working his tongue intently between the pads of his front paw, left then right. He worked his way back to the left hind paw, up his long leg – the dog has hind quarters like a small deer – to the grand, prized space between his legs.

I just had to stop him because he began to nibble at the surgical tape securing a plastic IV bag over his right, rear paw. The plastic IV bag covers a blue bandage that completely encases his foot, and extends up to his knee joint. The bag is there to save our carpet from any excess, dripping blood. “I’m sorry, boy,” I whispered. I touched my nose to his and inhaled his current smell (earthworms and grass). “Try to get some sleep,” I said, and slipped the 15-inch diameter translucent plastic cone back over his head.  

In the park earlier tonight, Dub — who knows how — ripped off a toenail. I swear this dog was born under an unlucky star. He’s not even five years old; we’ve had him with us for five months. So far we’ve had a seizure, a complete blood work-up, and invested in several preventatives. Total veterinary expenditure so far: $600+.

Here’s the kicker: DH called me from the vet while they were fixing up his bloody paw, and reported that Dr. H- discovered a heart arrhythmia. “Severe arrhythmia,” came his voice through the blackberry balanced on my shoulder.

“That can’t be,” I said. “Last vet appointment, after the seizure, they said he had the heart rate of a champion.”

“Dr. H- said these things appear rather suddenly.” I’ll say. His last check-up was only two months ago.

I stomped my slipper on the kitchen floor where I stood washing dishes. “He’s not even five years old.” I vividly recalled in this moment that the last time DH called me from the vet it was to tell me that Samson had an aggressive form of cancer and very little time left. Prior to that, I had been ready to pony up thousands to just make him better before we discovered that there was no such option. And whether I had been driven by devotion or mere dependence, my emotional memory cannot distinguish.  

“She says we need to get him to a cardiologist ASAP,” he continued.

“Could you ask her about his crazy metabolism?” I said. “Tell her how much he eats and his energy level; tell her that he could run all day and eat all day and never gain a pound.”

“Well, sure. But what does that have to do with his heart?”

I don’t know. That’s why I want to ask. He eats a like a horse.”

“Ok, I’ll ask.”

And that was that. I don’t think he asked. DH brought Dub home, along with a prescription for antibiotics and a brochure for Chesapeake Veterinary Cardiology Associates. I wish I could make this funny somehow, but I can’t summon it. Dub’s bumbling around the house in his cone of shame isn’t even amusing; this dog, of all dogs, should not be restrained or subdued. Both current and potential situations are against his nature. There has been no neglect or excess that could have caused this potentially very bad diagnosis. Potentially bad. We don’t know yet. May be nothing? But it may be something.

And at the moment I’m not feeling especially devoted or dependent. Just dumbstruck.

WTF?

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Sometimes Love Really Is a Bitch

I could chase my own tail with excitement!

It is sometimes lovely to be completely unaware what is happening in the world. There come distinct moments of delight and surprise that could not occur otherwise.  I’m sitting here by the fire, googling this cozy Friday evening away, and I discovered that NOT ONLY was an animated feature-film length version of Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip released in early September, but it will be playing at Landmark E Street Cinemas on 11/5.  

Best literary animal work of all time coming soon to my favorite movie theater?  With Lynn Redgrave, Christopher Plummer, and Isabella Rossellini? Did I mention the clever log line, Sometimes Love Really Is a Bitch? And that the E Street theater serves wine?

Oh, this calls for some serious pre-game indeed. Consider getting your own copy and following along….



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Filed under Adopting Dogs, Dog Training, literature

More Than a Feeling

This one’s going out to my well-intentioned mother, who I’m pretty sure still doesn’t quite get why we insist on having animals in our house.  

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Dogs and Family, Home Alone

Life’s timing isn’t always convenient for those who like to keep it neat and tidy. I personally don’t care so much about neat and tidy, but am indulging in this self-conscious preamble because I know some people would consider my activities of the last week to be poorly planned at best, irresponsible at worst. (Ok, fine; some people is pretty much just my mom.)

To the point, the point, the point. Right. The point is that we decided to get the dogs last weekend lest risk them going to another family. Within 48 hours, I was on a business trip, leaving DH, Pebbles and Bam-Bam to fend for themselves with our new jumping, licking, wagging, barking, 100-pound-combined-weight bundle of joy.

DH knew what to do. He got one of these:

Handy Dandy Leash Coupler

And these:

Four-Foot Leash (more on this topic later)

 

And lots of these:

Nothing says "I love dogs" more than a pocket full of liver snacks

All while I was here, working very hard:

Crate Lake, The Maroon Bells, Colorado

He kept them all alive! I enjoyed three, count ‘em, nights of gloriously uninterrupted sleep, and got some work done. And, um, hiked to Crater Lake.

Seriously, though. Three cheers for DH.  His survival is an accomplishment worth noting. Please do so now, in honor of mostly-modern, contributing husbands and fathers everywhere.

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four girls and two boys

Pebbles made an observation about three minutes after we closed the minivan doors and headed for home with two strange dogs, crated behind her seat. “Our family has four girls and two boys.” 

Everyone, meet Sadie (female, 2.5 yrs) and Dub (male, 4.5 years)! 

Introducing Sadie (left) and Dub

The hand off was smooth, if perhaps a little nerve-wracking.  We met the current owners, W&K, at a public park in Roanoke (which was lovely, by the way) and everyone was a little tense.  The dogs were hot and wild with all the attention.  Current owners were experiencing a mix of stress, sadness, and relief to meet us. (They didn’t want to give their gorgeous dogs away, but made the decision to do so because of a pending move to a condo in Boston.) DH and I were bickering, the way we do when we get stressed. Pebbles and Bam-Bam watched with wide eyes from a distance, inside the shade of the van. 

I think my email to W&K the next morning sums it up: 

We made it! Sadie and Dub were excellent travelers and, surprisingly, so were our children!  

We’ve been home for a few hours now, and have taken the dogs for a good walk and played in the yard. We’ll crate them for a few nights until they are more at ease.  They have been very sweet. And Dub is such a good boy!! We worked with him solo and were impressed. Sadie is a doll. And she was pretty good on leash; we even let our 5 year old walk her for about two blocks! Somewhat comical, but it worked out. 

Do feel free to contact us anytime, and I’m sure we’ll be in touch with questions. It was great to meet you and your family. Thank you again for driving halfway and, of course, for trusting us with the dogs. We promise to take great care of them. 

Day 1: So far, so good!

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Filed under Adopting Dogs, Brittanys

Roanoke or Bust

On Saturday morning DH and I packed the kids into the minivan, loaded it with snacks and DVDs and cameras and coffee, and headed south.

Not far now...

 Our prospective dogs’ current owners agreed to meet us halfway between Northern Virginia and Knoxville, their current home. Consider four hours of this from the back of the car: 

(In the car, they speak as one. Frankly, it doesn’t matter which one): Mama. Mama. Mamamamamamama? Mommy? I need a snack.

DH: Give your mother a minute. She’s…doing something on her computer.  Hey, do you have wireless on that?

Me: Yes. (I turn on the radio.)

Back: I wanna watch a show. Can we have a show? Dora? No, Diego. Can we have Dora?

Me: (typing) May we have Dora.  Please.  And yes you may, in a minute.

DH: Can you google where we are? I want to see what exit is next.”

Me: (still typing) We stay on 81 for like 300 miles. We don’t have to get off anytime soon. Who needs a snack?

Back: ME! Me! Meeeeeee!

DH: I like to know where we are, though. (turns off the radio)

Me: Hey, I was listening to that!

DH: I thought you were getting them a snack.

Back: Snacky! Snacky snacky snacky snack! Can we have chips? Can we have a show now?

DH: May we. Please. (To me:) What are you doing?

Me: Working on my blog.

DH: Can you please get them a snack?

Me:  I said I would. (I close the laptop and pull out some raisins and cashews.)

Back: But I wanted goldfish! I no yike cashews!

DH: What are we doing?

Me: (sigh) Injecting two strange dogs into the equation so that this moment, by comparison in retrospect, makes us nostalgic for simpler, saner times when we were really “in control?”

DH: Yup.

We know this feeling.  Or, at least, in keeping with the spirit of blogging truthiness, I certainly recognized it. Same feeling I had we got engaged (following the yin/yang vice soul-mate relationship model); when we bought puppy Samson and brought him to our DC condo without so much preparation as a pre-purchasing a leash; when we moved to NYC; when we moved back; when we drove home from the hospital with the screaming, colicky Pebbles; when we bought a broken down farmhouse in a historic district to renovate.

And I knew, with these dogs, what we could be getting into.

And DH did too, in this nauseating little life moment. I could see his satisfied, mid-west-modest grin out of the corner of my eye.

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BREAKING NEWS

It appears we have been approved to adopt a Brittany.

I know this because we are going to get our dog this weekend.

Oops… did i say “dog?”  It’s because I’m still getting used to the idea… our plan has changed a bit. We’re getting two.

Brittanys.

This weekend.

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What to expect?

  1. This blog is about the dogs in my life. And maybe motherhood. Wifely duties. A deep affinity for the amber liquors that bolster my ability to endure all three. But mostly about the dogs.  Dogs I once owned, and the dogs to come. 
  2. You’re welcome to share stories about your dogs. Same for the motherhood and wifely duties crap.
  3. Blog Rating: PG-13. May contain adult situations.
  4. I will, however, refrain from unnecessarily foul language.
  5. In keeping with the greatest animal writers, and out of respect for animals, I will work hard to avoid anthropomorphizing dogs and for that matter, all of God’s creatures.
  6. Count on regular references to literary dogs. (And by this I mean, for example, Tulip. Not Philip Roth.)
  7. I’m not a religious freak; that “God’s creatures” business was just me unable to think of another word for animals.
  8. Chipmunks may talk from time to time. Because chipmunks, and I think history proves this, deserve it. Maddening little motherfuckers.
  9. I will continue posting for 6 months and then reevaluate. That gives me until… hang on…counting ahead from the day I launched….December 21st.  The winter solstice.  My goal has a name! Now it’s definitely my end date.  I believe this to be a sure-fire sign of a book deal.
  10. Recall point #1; this is not about a getting book deal, it’s about my dogs.
  11. Wow. The winter solstice!  Shortest day of the year. Interestingly, this is also my parents’ wedding anniversary.
  12. My father died 12 years ago. My mother has been happily remarried for years.  Her new anniversary is in May.
  13. I will not end any blog lists on the number 13.  Who gets selected to adopt a beautiful Brittany, much less lands a book deal, by not attending to superstitions? I don’t stop on sidewalk cracks either; please reference #12 for substantiating proof point.
  14. I will post a few times a week. That is the all I can offer you.
  15. I should be clear; I don’t actually HAVE a dog at the moment. I’m between animals.
  16. And finally, I will stop before the cutesy, devicey stuff gets to be too much
  17. Or shortly thereafter.

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Filed under Adopting Dogs, Brittanys, Kids, literature, Marriage

the home visit

Linda showed up at our house at 7:30-ish. That was our agreement over email, complete with the “ish.”  “Ish” is my way of warning that I have two children under six, work full-time, and am no stranger to adult attention deficit.  If you’re late, or early, I will understand. Time management is an oxymoron in my world.  Add “ish” and at least I’m self-aware.

Linda pulled her Camry right to our front gate and waved out the window.  I imagined the scene as she saw it — lovely daughters, just slightly dishevled, eating popiscles on the front porch swing and giggling. White porch dappled with light from the setting, summer sun.  Dear husband (DH) watering the new azalea bushes. My lipgloss? Fresh. Light.  I may have heard music.

“Hi there,” I called through  my most fabulous smile. 

Then, “you gonna shower now?” I whisper-hissed to my husband through said, sparkling smile. 

Linda is a volunteer for American Brittany Rescue. She conducts home visits with families interested in adopting, and oh, I was interested. At that moment there were only two forces driving my behavior.  The first — less force really, than prim old-lady voice inside my head —  was my maternal grandmother chirping, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”  (Seriously, the man ran five miles and smelled like a hunk of cheese.  Expecting that he think ahead and be showered was not exactly an expectation on par with those of aStepford Wife.)

The second force, truly a force, was the deep hollowness I have felt for the last three months. We euthenized our Brittany, Samson, on March 5, 2010. He’d been suffering from cancer.

DH sighed his you-realize-you’re-being-ridiculous sigh and acquiesed to my shower request.  I responded with a slap to his behind. I’m-no-stranger-to-ridiculous. 

My two-year-old pressed her melting, half-eaten rocket pop into my palm.  “Can I watch a show? Pleeeeese?” 

And Linda — this ABR angel with perfectly separated Maybeline lashes who had the power to fill the chasm in my heart — crossed the threshold to our home.

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Filed under Adopting Dogs, Brittanys