Friday, December 10, 2010

December 11, 2010 - I Love You Best

"I love you the best." I whisper in Sherman's velvety ear as I wrap my arm around him, pull him close, and scratch his chest. He leans his head back on my shoulder and listens as I tell him, "Mamas aren't supposed to have favorites, you know, so don't tell the others. We don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but you're my favorite. I love how you always want to be with me, how you worry when I don't feel good. I love you the best."

"I love you the best." I murmur to Freya as I stroke her long, soft ears the way she likes. "Don't tell Sherman or the pugs, but you're my favorite. You're so smart, so loyal, such a help. I don't know what I'd do without you. You're beautiful too - the prettiest brindle in the house! I love you the best."

"Pssst, Spencer. C'mere, buddy. Everybody else is napping, so it's just you and me. Let me rub your tummy, buddy. I'm not supposed to have favorites, but you know how it is. You're my special pal, my big, burly, brave Spencer-boy. So handsome and strong! I just love the way you smile at me with all your lower teefies, and I'm proud that you're such a gentleman. I love you the best."

"Awww...hi, Loki." I croon as he pops up, periscope pug, by my desk and I caress his face in my hand. "How's my teddy bear pug today? I love you too, little man. Yes, I think you're sweet. Yes, I think you're adorable. Yes, you're mama's favorite, but don't tell the other dogs. They're already jealous of you, you know. It'll be our little secret. I love you the best."

"Archie! My man!" I chirp, rubbing his head in both hands, watching his ears bob up and down as he snorts in response. "You are such a good-looking hunk of pug! Look at that coat!" as I run my fingers through his thick, puppy-soft fur. "I have never seen such magnificent fur. That's why you're my favorite, you know, just between you and me. You're just so sweet and cuddly, such a huggable boy. I love you the best."

I scratch Sammie's sturdy, muscular neck, "Sam-bot! Yeeeessss, I'm happy to see you too! Of course I am! I know, other critters moved in, but you're still my favorite gargoyle. Yes you are! You'll always been my snaggle-toothed baby boy. Always. I love you the best."

"Dude! Atta boy!" I cheer Cannoli as he takes another step out of his shell, opening up some, learning something new from one of the other dogs. "Good "outside"! Good boy! C'mere, cutie! Let me rub that belly! Atta boy! You're my favorite, you know. Yes, you are. So polite and friendly, never cause a problem or an argument. I love how you get along with all the others, how you wait so calmly for dinner and treats and your turn for rubs. Cannoli, I love you the best."


I know.

I won't tell if you won't.

Y'all take care, now.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

December 8, 2010 - I Heard Someone Say


Yesterday, I heard someone say, advertising some adventure show or another, "Everybody dies, but not everybody lives." I just had to stop and ponder that. I do that now and then, just stop and ponder. I don't especially mean for the Shady Rest blog to focus on death, but at the same time, when you tend to cater to senior and special needs animals, in multiples, it is a topic that comes up perhaps a bit more often than in the average house with pets.

That's not to say the Shady Rest is a gloomy place, with death always hovering in the air. On the contrary, we celebrate life here! There's nothing like first-hand knowledge of just how short life can be to make every moment savory. Cj and I were working in the kitchen the other day, singing with the radio and watching the dogs dance along. When I came home today, they all pranced and spun and I pranced right along with them. We even woke up Archie! Last night I caught Freya playing with Sherman, all alpha-dignity tossed to the winds for a game of tag. When Cj arrives tonight, we'll all conga down the hall to welcome her back.

Nobody, human, dog, cat, other, is immortal. We're all dying; it's just a matter of when, not if. This really isn't a bad thing, though it can be painful. What would we accomplish with ourselves, if we knew we had forever? What urgency would there be to love, to laugh, to appreciate, if no one ever went away? Without nature clearing out the old and worn out, there'd be no babies, no kittens, no puppies.

"We all die. The goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will." - Chuck Palahniuk

"Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live." - Henry Van Dyke

So, anyway. This convoluted train of thought led me to the conclusion that the worst way to deal with life's limitations is to get a big, honkin' spotlight and aim it at them. If your pet has a medical problem, find out all you can, but if you don't have a diagnosis, quit reading about possible problems. Don't sit there, wringing your hands, mopping the occasional tear and taking Muffy's pulse all day, especially when Muffy has her ball in her mouth and just wants you to play. Get a copy of the Merck Veterinary Manual, a fine book with a ton of animal pathologies included. Thumb through it, tell yourself, out loud, "My dog could die of a whole bunch of stuff in here." Now, toss the damn thing in the back of the deepest closet you have, leave it there, and take the dog out for a small pineapple sundae and a romp in the park. Let it go. Enjoy the now that you do have with your pet and leave the maybes and whatifs and wouldas for when they come.

Most rescues have a hospice dog or six around somewhere, dogs too old or too sick to be readily offered for adoption (though if someone falls in love with one, an adoption would certainly be done, happily.) George was one, because of his heart condition and stroke. Nobody I know who cares for these marvelous dogs thinks of them as "dying." Their stories are told, they have fun with their humans and their toys and their treats, and as long as they enjoy life, their human caregivers enjoy it with them.

"Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough." - William Saroyan

Go. Have some fun. Spit in the Reaper's eye.

Monday, November 8, 2010

November 8, 2010 - Sweet Dreams Are Made of This


We let the dogs sleep with us Saturday night, or at least most of 'em. Freya prefers her crate, the only pug-free time she has to call her own (moms will understand, I'm sure) and because we're concerned that he'll get knocked off the edge in the night, Archie joins the pack by often snoozing on a blanket on the floor by the bed. Sammie, Spencer, Loki and Sherman, however, were delighted to all be allowed in. Most often, especially during the week, they're all locked out of the human's den - love 'em, but the mamas have to get some rest for work.

So, anyway, when I dozed off Saturday, it was with Sherman by my calf, chin resting on my ankle, Sammie by my knee and lower thigh, Spencer with his butt against my ribs, his head on Cj's pillow, and his front paw draped companionably across her head. Loki was on the outside, curled into the curve of her hip and thigh. It's quite cozy, if a bit crowded, on a cold autumn night.

When I drifted back awake Sunday morning, Cj had already gotten up, across the hall to watch some chick-flick and write her soldier for the week (we're both members of the Soldier's Angels Letter Writing Team). Sammie and Sherman had followed her, Loki and Spencer had opted to stay in bed. Spencer was aligned with my legs, Loki was snoring none too softly with his head comfortably pillowed on my stomach. It was so sweet I just stayed there for a bit, letting them both sleep, until a full bladder and aching hip demanded I move.

Pugs (and apparently beagles, I'm learning) are most excellent sleeping companions. Too much so, sometimes, if you have to get up and be somewhere at a particular time. I still have my job, I suspect, only because my manager is a dog-loving and sympathetic soul who's been a few minutes late herself a time or two because moving her two warm and snoring canine bedmates was more than her willpower was up for.

On the one hand, they DO tend to hog the space, steal the blankets, snore and fart, all of which can be profoundly annoying in a human companion, but for some reason are more cute than aggravating in a dog. At least the dog, having farted under the blanket, has the courtesy to not flap the blanket and share the wealth, and he's companionable enough to not mind if you fart or snore too.

On the other hand, dogs are warm, really warm. It's not at all hard to really comprehend the concept of the phrase "three dog night;" i.e. a night cold enough to require a third dog on the bed to stay comfortably warm.

Mostly, I suspect, humans, whether we want to own up to it or not, are pack animals, just like dogs and wolves. Like them, we're hardwired on some deep, primitive, visceral level to crave the comfort and safety of sleeping in a bunch. We just sleep better when we're part of a "puppy pile," paws and limbs intertwined, touching, nestling like littermates. On some level, we know we're most vulnerable when we're unconscious, and feel then the safety in numbers. Over the centuries, humans have come to rely upon the keener senses of the dogs to be the first to notice a predator or enemy approaching our cave/tent/nest/home. William of Orange made the pug the national dog of The Netherlands after his pug, Pompey, alerted him to approaching attackers, saving his life. Dogs, meanwhile, have come to understand that, if they wake up their humans in time, the humans will put their brains and thumbs into defending the den. Sleeping in happy little piles has proved to be very beneficial to both sides.

Time for me to go, see if I can slide my foot out from under a sleeping Spencer, probably get to sleep with Sherman, who's quick as a snake if he sees a crack in the bedroom door, wish it weren't a work night, try to get some sleep. Y'all have a good night. Toss an extra dog on the bed if you need to. If you don't have an extra dog, look for a rescue in your area - winter's coming. You may need another one.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

October 19, 2010 - As doG is My Witness...

...I do not make this stuff up. These are actual moments, snippets of conversation, and bits of the day around the Shady Rest.

"Sherman, step off the cat. Thor, spit out Kali and leave her alone. No, I do not care who started it. I will stop it. Because I have the opposable thumbs, that's why."

"Who's digging?"
"Any idea why? Sounds pretty frantic."
"Doesn't he? I've been watching and I still have no idea."
"What's he digging on, exactly?"
"The bed, the square one."
"Should be comfy, from the sound of it."
"You'd think but he wouldn't know. Just laid down right next to it."
"On the floor?"

I hear scuffling out in the kitchen, look around, count noses.
I hear paws trotting briskly down the hall from the kitchen to the office. A pointy little face peers curiously around the door frame.
"Yes, mama?"
"What are you doing out there?"
"Me?" The head tilts. "Nuuuuthin."
The face disappears back around the doorframe, the sound of trotting heads back toward the kitchen. More scuffling ensues, including what sounds suspiciously like the low growl of an annoyed feline.
The face appears in the doorway again, ears up.
"You wouldn't, by any chance, be aggravating the cat, would you, Sherm?"
The ears droop. He looks away. He grumbles at Loki on his way to the snuggle bed. I almost feel bad for spoiling his fun.

Small accomplishment for the day - Archie got to running down the hall and passed Spencer! Go Archie!

Cj and I are out running some errands and it starts to rain. We go to get out at the grocery store, and she hands me the rain jacket she keeps in her car. "Here, it's rainy."
"I see that. Why don't you wear the rain jacket?"
"Because you get cold easier than I do."
"So? You get cold too?"
"I don't mind as much. You wear the jacket."
"Oh, I see how it is. You want ME to wear the jacket, then you'll get cold and wet, get pneumonia, and expect me to wait on your sick, sorry butt hand and foot?"
"That's my plan, yes." as she hops out of the car and trots away, giggling, in the rain...

So, right now, Spencer is in the snuggle bed quietly watching it all, Sherman's on the bedroom floor, staring at the cat on the bed so hard I fear the feline may burst into flame, Loki's dragging his bed around the office, and Sammie's starting to fuss because it''s Tuesday, I guess. Through it all, Freya is asleep. My world - welcome to it.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

October 2, 2010 - New Stuff, Fun Stuff


Well, it seems fall is upon us. That's fine with us - here at the Shady Rest, autumn is our favorite time of year. Still-warm days, crisp nights, that "fall" smell in the air, stunning blue skies. The leaves are just now starting to change to their orange, red and yellow wardrobe. The grass doesn't need mowing quite as often now, but there aren't yet any leaves to rake. Perfect.

The dogs are loving the cooler weather, and that the mamas tend to be in a better mood this time of year. I got home from work the other day and let them out as usual, then decided to go join them. We had a nice romp in the yard and everybody was smiling when we went back in. CJ. and I met in the fall, Halloween, to be specific, so October and November always bring back fond memories. The fact that it's always more fun to cuddle when it's cooler doesn't hurt any either...

Speaking of CJ., she's been having to work a bunch of overtime lately, mandatory, as her company rearranges to accommodate taking on a new client. In general, this is good - as much job security as one can expect these days and her company is growing, so that's good. Still, it means the dogs and I are having more quality time together by ourselves. We miss her, but we still have a good time.

I find I talk to them more when I'm home "alone" than when CJ's here too. I mean, we both talk to the animals often and at some length, but when it's just me and the kids, the conversations get even longer and more detailed. Part of it is because I don't always have anyone to talk to at work all day either, so by the time I get home, I'm bored, and animals are such great listeners. Dogs appear to hang on every word you say, fascinated. If I seem happy, they get happy with me. If I seem sad, upset or annoyed, they pull in closer, get quieter, seem to be both sympathetic and protective.

Sherman has lately developed a couple of new behaviors, or at least started displaying behaviors we hadn't seen before. For one, when I come home, he rushes to see me, along with the other guys, but that's not the new part. When I reach down to give initial pats, I only have one hand available. (They get a cursory pat, then I put away the purse and lunch bag and whatnot and then more thorough scritches are given with both hands. ) I try to keep it even - a pat for Sherman, a rub for Spencer, a caress for Sammie, and around one more time (the other three, Freya's still crated and Archie and Loki usually wait at the other end of the house for me to get there, preferring to avoid the rush.) That used to work fine, each getting a pat or two in turn, but now as soon as I try to move my hand off Sherman's head and onto Spencer's or Sammie's, Sherman will grab my sleeve with his teeth, just the tiny front teeth and very carefully, and try to pull my hand off of them!

It might be a behavior worth discouraging if he were pulling hard or trying to bite flesh, but he's so careful with the fabric and so careful not to get skin, that I can't help but chuckle at him. I tell him to wait his turn and he runs off. He then runs back bearing a toy! He never, ever used to do that, and I'm tickled he's opening up and wanting to play. Wiggling all over he runs to the kitchen, down the hall, to the living room, squeaking his toy all the way, the bounces up on the bed to get me to play grab with him for a few minutes.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit his other new "thing." He's started wanting to "spoon." Romantic with a partner, a little disconcerting with a beagle. This morning, for instance, I'm about half awake and feel something warm scoot up against my upper back, right between the shoulder blades. For one, very brief moment I thought it was CJ., until a cold, wet nose went "Fooof!" and blew a blast of exhale on my neck! Slowly and carefully, I turned enough to verify that yes, Sherman had crawled to the top of the bed, body still under the blanket, but head on my pillow, chest up against my back, one paw kind of over my shoulder. CJ was on the other side of him, her back to his, and Kali the cat was on CJ's outside, by her hip. Quite cozy.

I'd like to add that I'm quite proud of Archie. I had some errands to run today while CJ was at work and as I got ready to go, I realized that I was assigning tasks - "Freya, keep an eye on the house," "Sherman, don't eat Sammie"- and Archie was sitting up in the bedroom, awake and listening to the discussion. For some reason I felt a twinge of guilt, like I was afraid he was feeling left out, like I didn't think he was capable because he was older and nearly blind. So, I leaned down, rubbed his head with both hands and said, "And Archie, YOUR job is to guard this bedroom while I'm gone. You're between the door and the bed, so it's your responsibility to make sure nobody steals the bed or sneaks it out that door. Okay?" He looked at me and tapped his foot on the floor, which I took as sort of an Archie version of "aye-aye, ma'am."

I ran my errands, met up with CJ in the driveway as we got home about the same time, went to grab a bite and came home. I went to the bedroom and there it was, the bed, still safely in place, with Archie still in the doorway, still sitting up (or, more likely, sitting up again after a bit of a nap). I told him how very proud I was, what a brave and good guardian he was! He seemed pleased at the praise, getting up to march off down the hall to the kitchen pee pad. I should leave him in charge more often.

Ya'll take care, now. Take a second to look at the leaves and sniff the air while it's still autumn-crisp. Winter'll be here before you know it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 21, 2010 - Never Thought I'd See That


"Never thought I'd see that." I say that alot around the Shady Rest. There's always something going on that I've never seen before, never even considered that I might.

For example, we had a guest Sunday night. Saturday was Santa in September 2010. It went well - donations were down, as they seem to be everywhere, but thanks to a lot of good will and good donations, all went smoothly, everyone had a good day, and every penny we did get ($409.50) went right to the pugs. I got to spend some time talking to all the rescues that attended - good folks, rescuers. Go to some rescue fair or adoption event and visit with them, if you get a chance. Meet a few other breeds and the people that love and care for them. It'll be good for your spirit and you might learn something while you're at it.

Anyway, come Sunday, I got an email from the min pin folks, thanking us for having SIS and inviting them, and asking, too, if I knew of any place that did boarding at a discount for rescues. Seems they had a min pin boy that needed out of a bad situation in a hurry, and a place to bunk until a long-term foster home could be found. I offered the Shady Rest, if they didn't mind a pug person instead of a min pin person minding him for a bit. They didn't, and Max came to spend the night. A happy, handsome nine-year old red/rust min pin, he fit right in and got along just fine.

As I got ready to go to work Monday, I poked my head in to tell Cj goodbye (She gets up about an hour after I do). Sammie was dozing in my spot on the bed, Sherman was behind Cj's knees, and then Max's slender head and long muzzle rose from in front of her hips, to blink at me and make sure I wasn't planning on making anybody get up. I wasn't, and as I looked at that slender-as-a-deer-fawn form curled elegantly on the bed, I thought, "Never thought I'd see that."

Even more unlikely, I woke up the other day and saw Kali, the hermit-cat, sound asleep on the bed. That alone used to be as rare as hen's teeth, but what really made me shake my head in awe this time was her companion. Barely a foot and a half away, also sound asleep on the bed, lay Sherman. The cat best known for being afraid of everyone in general and dogs in particular, sleeping next to the beagle, the breed best known for trailing prey and small running creatures it thinks are prey, completely comfortable just inches apart. Never thought I'd see that.

I hate to sound like I'm boasting, especially since I don't really take any personal credit for it, but I often think there's something about this house, this place. It was here when we moved in, part of what made us want to settle here in the first place. Something peaceful. I don't know if it's the actual house, or the little patch of earth on which it sits, but something.

There are occasionally spats, sure. Whenever more than one living being inhabits a space, there will be disagreements, but no yelling, no throwing, no hurting. Max was returned to rescue because he was peeing in the house. A bit of investigation found that he'd been perfectly house trained when he was adopted, but the couple who had him argued nearly constantly. They yelled, at each other and at him, and threw things (only at each other, far as could be determined.) His sensitive system couldn't take the stress and he started forgetting his house training. I'd have been peeing on the floor too, subjected to that kind of environment. We were told Min Pins are sensitive, he's likely to be nervous at first, a little jumpy, not want to eat. Not at the Shady Rest. He walked in, sniffed around and visibly relaxed. He toddled around with the other dogs, walked fearlessly under Freya's legs, barked at the neighbors with Spencer, and ate his dinner like a champ. He was, for just one evening, one happy, relaxed, tummy-tickles-and-peace-and-quiet evening, a Shady Rest dog.

Never thought I'd see that.

Y'all take care.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

September 10, 2010 - Up and Down, Young and Old


I apologize for how long I've been silent (it's probably some kind of record for me.) What they tell you before you have bypass surgery is "you may experience some post-surgical depression." What they fail to note, and probably sensibly, is "you may experience anything from a mild case of the blues to a full-blown case of homicidal bipolar lunacy that will have you making that crazy hag from Stephen King's Misery look like Mother-flipping-Teresa." Unfortunately, particularly for Cj, I seem to have landed at the crazy-hag end of the spectrum. Bless her heart, she's trying nobly to keep up with my insane mood swings and tendency to either cry or yell for no reason she, or any other rational person, can see. Even Spencer just stares at me sometimes, head tilted, confused. "Mom? If that bowl of ice cream is gonna make you cry, I'll eat it for you." Bless their hearts, they want to help.

As you can understand, this little emotional roller coaster has made it somewhat challenging to be the laid-back, mellow observer of life that you've come to expect from the Shady Rest's Innkeeper. Hence, the big gap since my last update. Still, there are good days, stable moments, and, as always, critters to watch and help keep me semi-sane.

OPR got in a little fellow today, Kashi by name. All of twelve weeks old! Rescues don't usually get too many of those - they're still too cute and smell too much like puppy breath to throw away yet at that age. This little guy, however, was already on his third(!) home, and had already been relegated to living in the yard(!!), possibly for just being too energetic. Happily, he found his way to rescue while still happy, healthy and in good shape. As I looked at the pictures sent along by his new foster family (NOT us), I couldn't help but smile. I also couldn't help but imagine what the sedate residents of the Shady Rest would do if something that young and cute and energetic came bouncing through the door. Then I giggled so hard I almost needed to get myself a pee pad.

Really, can't you see it? You've hung out here with me, many of you, for a while. You have a fair idea of the atmosphere. Can't you imagine injecting a hyper, wall-eyed pug puppy into the place? Freya would probably be fine - she gets the concept of "cub" and would take him in paw for some doggy training.

Sherman would probably flip, wearing himself out completely just trying to keep up with the puppy and ensure he was always, always in between the puppy and Sherman's human. As it is he gets most of his exercise sliding between me and Sammie or me and Spencer. He'd probably need canine plastic surgery to iron the crinkle out of his lip by the time the puppy got adopted.

Loki wouldn't mind too much, as long as the puppy was nice to him. He's always been good about sharing - his space, his treats, his people - but he's always been a little intimidated by puppies, too. I think their energy overwhelms him a little, especially as he's gotten older.

Sammie would be interesting to watch. Most of the time, I forget just how old he is; not that he's ancient or anything, but he acts more like five or six than he does 12 going on 13. I think he'd be happy to play with a puppy, at least in long as puppy didn't even look in the direction of Sammie's dinner.

Archie. Ah, Archie. He'd be the most fun to watch, but then, I'm not sure I could do that to him. He'd be so confused by a puppy running past every few seconds, first here, then there, never still. Archie's a seriously game little guy - age and impaired vision be damned, he'd try to keep up. In some ways, it would probably be good for him - good muscle-toning, a little more fun in an otherwise quiet life. On the other hand, I have scary visions of a puppy seeing Archie as a trampoline or something, pouncing him mid-nap and scaring him into a stroke or worse. He is nearly 14, after all.

It'd be nice to have a puppy around again, just once more before I die. But maybe, for now, it's just as well that some other foster home is enjoying the puppy breath tonight...

Ya'll take care now.

Friday, July 23, 2010

July 24, 2010 - Where to Begin


Oh, my. Time sure flies when you're in a daze. I'm not even sure where to start with the updates. In one sense, there's been a lot going on; in another sense, I've not actually done much at all.

Okay, I'll try to keep this short and not too tedious. Back in May, I started having more and more chest pain (for anyone who doesn't know, I had a fatal heart attack back in 2004, and another, less severe one, in 2008, but I'd been doing pretty much okay.) By May 24, it was pretty severe; I could barely walk from the bedroom to the bathroom without needing a nitro tablet for the pain. I called my cardiologist, who told me to go to the ER and get evaluated. I wasn't having another heart attack, but they did admit me for an angiogram and a few other tests. It was found that the blockages we knew were there had gotten worse and while I hadn't yet had another attack, I was definitely heading for one. So, they sent me home to wait for the anti-clotting meds to clear my system and scheduled a triple bypass for June 15. I was pretty much told to not DO anything. Just rest and stay calm.

So, Cj took over most of the stuff around the Shady Rest and, with the help of the furry nursing staff of the Rest, taking care of me too. Me, I just mostly waited. We lost George on June 2, but I told you about that. I went back to the hospital on June 7, by ambulance at 2:30 AM and stayed until the 9th, while they adjusted my meds to get the angina, and my heart rate, back under control. When I got home, all the critters were delighted to see me, as they always are, but Sherman was particularly effusive. He was also in a panic when I started to get out of bed that night, intending only to go to the bathroom. He crawled into my lap, whining, refusing to let me up, terrified I was going to go away in the middle of the night again like I'd done the last night I was at home. I finally convinced him he could come to the bathroom with me and make sure I came back and he did. He didn't calm until we were both back in bed and he was cuddled close to my side.

Finally, the day came, June 15, and bright and early, Cj took me back to the hospital. We were there by 5:45 AM (AM!! Us!) and by 8:00 AM, I was off to surgery. I'm a bit fuzzy on what happened after that, for several hours (well, okay, to be honest, I'm completely blank on everything from "I'm just going to give you something to relax you" until I woke up in CCU four hours later...and a little vague on the whole rest of the day...) Cj tells me the surgery took a tad over three and a half hours, and that I was very entertaining to talk to when I first started to come to. They ended up only doing a double bypass, as one of the clogged arteries was just too small to do safely. I shouldn't really notice the difference.

So, on Wednesday, I was already doing so well they moved me down to the cardiac step-down unit and started pestering me to walk. They also started waking me up at 4:00 AM just to weigh me, again at 5:00 AM for one pill, vitals at 6:00 AM, then wondering at breakfast time why I seemed a little cranky and did I want a pain pill? If you aren't crazy when you get to the hospital, you will be by the time you escape. They finally let me go on the following Monday, and I happily returned home to the loving care of Cj and the critters.

I had all kinds of plans for all the free time I was seeing ahead - I had at least five weeks before I'd be allowed to work again, and I figured I could get some writing done - work on my herbal notes, keep up with the blog. Yeah. Right. Between underestimating how much pain there'd be, especially at first, and the concentration-killing effects of the pain killers and being way off normal schedule, I was definitely over-optimistic. I did get a good bit of reading done, while I hung out in bed with my swollen leg propped up (for reasons no one really understands, the leg from which they harvest the vein for the bypass usually hurts worse and causes more problems than the chest incision, which, if you're interested, is about 9 inches long and not too gruesome at all, or the split sternum underneath, now held together with glue and wire until the bone knits back together.

Of course, summer is still the season of pet rescue events, and there was a BIG one on July 10, The Mars (as in Mars, Inc., makers of wonderful candies like M&Ms and pet foods like Pedigree and Whiskas) Adoption Day. The Mars folks volunteered their time and space, hosting a bunch of area rescues and shelters. Vendors and entertainment are limited, so the focus is on people looking for animals to adopt, and animals needing adoption. Mars even sponsored $40 toward every single adoption fee! Nearly two dozen pets found new forever homes that day, including our own, beloved Sherman. Sherman, after getting his adoption day picture taken and picking up his newly-adopted-pet food goodie packet (a HUGE amount of food and treats, donated by Mars), trotted happily home with his delighted new Forever Parents... me and Cj. We'd been talking about adopting this charming, smart and exceedingly cool dog anyway, and his faithful, gentle care and worry while I was sick and recovering clinched the deal. The fee donation from Mars didn't hurt any either, but it only sped up the inevitable.

So, this adventure, this chapter in the annals of the Shady Rest is about to come to a close. I still have some sore spots, swollen spots, raw places that aren't quite closed, but overall, I'm a bit ahead of schedule on recovery. I feel better than I have in months, maybe years, now that there's blood flowing to places it hasn't been in quite a while. I even felt well enough to attend and thoroughly enjoy my 30th High School reunion last week. (I think I'm the first in the bunch to acquire a bypass scar...) I'll rest a little more this weekend, then head back to work on Monday.

I have to give Alicia, my office manager, coworker and friend, huge thanks - I left work one day in mid-May, not feeling too well, and haven't been back since. With no warning and no help, she had to take over all my work in addition to her own. I hope she knows I'd do the same for her, though I hope for her sake I never have to. She's good people.

Y'all take care now.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

June 6, 2010 - Lookin' Around, Movin' On


Losing a beloved pet changes things. Sometimes the changes are major; if you only have one pet and it dies, the devastation can be shattering. Your routines are altered, your whole day different. The silence where clicking claws used to echo hurts, and the sight of that one bowl, now washed and put on the shelf, can rip your heart out and shred it to hamburger every time you pass by.

When Petunia, our first pug, died, we did have one other dog, Freya, but not the pack we have now. It took so very little to bring the grief slamming back down, the memories rushing back. I was having a "good" day a few days after she left us, having only cried once or twice. I went to the kitchen, pulled a package of Poptarts (brown sugar/cinnamon, if anyone's interested) out of the cabinet, opened the package, and broke down sobbing. Petunia loved Poptarts, better than most any other treat. We had an agreement for most of her life - she got the corners, I got the rest. She could tell the crackle of a Poptart wrapper versus any other package in the world and would come running to make sure I didn't forget the deal. Even when the paralysis had taken much of her mobility, she'd burn carpet rushing down the hall, pulling herself with her elbows like a Navy Seal storming a beach under fire.

That's not to say that having a pack makes it much easier. The rest do not "replace" the missing member; they do, however, provide motivation and the comfort of routine. They still expect to be fed, watered, walked, petted and played with regardless. The daily schedule doesn't change much, though you may find yourself setting out one more bowl than you need for a while.

One thing that happens when you lose one of a pack is, at least for a while, you remember to appreciate the ones remaining a little more. My eyes may mist as I look around and don't see George, but I have to smile at what I do see. Spencer still naps comfortably atop my foot as I type. Sammie still give me his best smile when I come in the house or stop to talk to him. Archie still squirms with delight at the smell of dinner, and Sherman still stings my shin with his joyfully wagging tail. Freya's eyes still sparkle with intelligence and good humor as she teases Hawk, and Hawk still sneaks past her to run to me for an ear rub. Loki is, well, still Loki, cheerfully and unintentionally leaving a trail of chaos in his wake.

This may be, in part, why I'm not sure I could stand us being a one-dog family again. What would I do, without my "cushion" of my loving, encouraging, comforting pack? Without cats that don't mind having their fur cried into as I hold them, without pugs that make me smile by smiling at me first? No matter how much we might wish it so, they are not immortal. I know that the day will eventually come for each of them when I will take an urn in shaking hands, and look to the ones remaining to keep my heart from shattering completely.

So, for now, I pet each one a little more, spend a little more time talking to them, saying "good dog" and "I love you." For now. Human nature being what it is, time will heal the worst of the grief. You don't "get over" it, but you do get through it, and eventually habit and routine will reassert themselves. We'll all go about our lives, not thinking about it too much, until another day...and another urn...reminds us to appreciate the ones we love.

If you need some inspiration or comfort in a time of sorrow, I highly recommend You can post a memorial, read others, and join in the Monday Night Candle ceremony. Pain shared is pain diminished.

Ya'll take care now.

Friday, June 4, 2010

June 4, 2010 - Godspeed


It started innocently enough, with yet another "pug needs a foster home" post on the Ohio Pug Rescue foster family list. Cj and I looked around, decided we had enough fosters right then, and so decided to see if another foster family would respond. A month later, he was still there, a little fawn senior (10 years old, give or take a little), blind, fellow named George. He was safe, in temporary foster at a home that couldn't keep him for long, but was still a step up from the shelter from which he'd been pulled, shortly before being put down, so we waited. Another month, and he was still there, still waiting. We felt for the little guy, and the list of pugs needing foster placement was growing, so we said we'd take him.

On February 3, 2008, George came to the Shady Rest. For his age and lack of vision, he was active, bright, interested. He learned his way around the house in only a couple of days. We started working with him, training him to navigate by verbal commands. He eventually developed a pretty decent vocabulary:

"Find me!" meant there are no obstacles between you and me so come here. He'd run, confident that nothing would trip him up before he got to us and the praise and ear rubs that were his primary reward.

"Careful" meant slow down, you're approaching an obstacle.

"Right" meant, well, go to your right (yes, he learned his right from his left, with more consistency than Cj or I most days.)

"Left" meant go left.

"Step up" you need to step up onto a stair or curb.

"Step down" meant you're at the edge of something, step down.

"Step off" meant you're at the top of the steps, proceed forward.

"Steps" was an early warning to anticipate a "step up" or "step down".

"beep beep" meant back up or turn around, you're at a dead end or wall. (okay, so we have a sick sense of humor)

"follow" meant follow my voice.

He soon became very proficient at navigating by verbal command alone. One day, he was at the far end of the back yard. I was on the deck, but rather than go after him, I started coaching him. "George! Follow." He began coming in the direction of my voice. "George! Right" as he veered toward the shrubs. So on it went, across the yard, around the end of the deck, and up the deck stairs, with me never laying a hand on him. When he finally reached the top of the steps, a proud and happy "Find me!" brought him running right to my arms. "Now, left" took him right through the door.

We even attended a rescue event on the second floor of a local mall. There is an elevator, but he and I opted to take the escalator. Most dogs are confused or frightened by them, but since George couldn't see it, and trusted me completely to not run him into anything dangerous, he showed off to a mall-full of people and did the escalator all by himself. From the door to the bottom of the escalator, stepping on at the bottom and off at the top, around the corner and down the mall to the store. Leash completely slack, verbal commands only. I heard quite a few "wouldja look at that!" from the shoppers, and I couldn't have been more proud.

Of course, being a pug, George had his moments. As noted in previous Shady Rest entries, he could be stubborn, grumpy, demanding, and frustrating. He loved to terrorize the other dogs, and even Freya learned to not aggravate him. She may have been twice his size and half his age, but she knew he could kick her tail and laugh about it. We came to think of him as a little, furry, blind Chuck Norris of sorts. He had a troubled relationship with the kitchen appliances and occasionally attacked them. Far as I can tell, he always won.

George defined "movie-star handsome," with some of the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen.

His blindness was, as far as any vet could tell, neurological, some problem with the optic nerve, not ocular. His eyes were fine - clear, soft brown, gentle. He was probably born that way, which helped explain how well he dealt with being blind.

He eventually developed congestive heart failure, and did well on the medication he took without protest every day. Then, a few months ago, he had what appeared to be a stroke, leaving his neck bent to the side, making it hard for him to walk a straight line, and robbing him of most of his navigational abilities. He was designated a "hospice" foster, unadoptable because of his medical problems and age. He would stay at the Shady Rest for the rest of his life. Still, he kept going, undeterred, undefeated. He allowed us to "drive" him around in a stroller for longer trips, but still enjoyed going out and about, smelling and hearing new people and new places. For all that he could be a bit of a grouch at home, he was all charm when he was out. Someone would approach and start to scratch his chin and he would bestow upon them a huge, happy smile. Scratch his chest, and he'd melt into a puddle of contented fur. He still enjoyed his dinners and would still defend his dish as fiercely as ever. Teasing Loki still made him smile.

The night before last, George left us. No warning, no symptoms. Cj had hand-fed him his dinner, because he'd been losing his dish and not finishing it. He had his dessert treat and laid down on the cool kitchen floor, a fairly common night sleep spot of his. That's where she found him yesterday morning - a small, peaceful smile on his face, one ear sticking straight up. No sign of any pain, struggle, or distress, he just slipped away in his sleep, his brave, fierce heart finally giving out.

As they all do, he taught us his lessons. Stand up for what's important to you, even when you can barely stand up. It's okay to have a little harmless fun with others as long as nobody gets hurt. New people and new places don't have to be scary. If you trust someone, trust them with your whole heart and you'll get where you're going.

Godspeed, Gorgeous George. Run fast and run free, and know that you are missed.

Y'all take care now.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

May 12, 2010 - Why Do They DO That?

Not that it takes much to confuse me, but the pugs manage to do it with staggering ease sometimes.

The other day, for example, Cj was locking up Freya in her crate before heading out to work. Freya gets a treat for going in. The pugs, who are not locked up during the day, expect a treat as well, and Loki and Spencer sometimes run into their crates to ensure they get a goodie, even though the doors will remain open. Well, Loki tries, at least. On this particular day, though, he stops short of the door and starts hopping from foot to foot, whining and fussing. Cj doesn't see anything at first, but a closer peek reveals George. George dozing INSIDE Loki's crate. George, old, crippled, blind terror of all the other dogs. They all know better than to cross him or to wake him. So Loki would rather be re-neutered than risk walking into that crate. Out of pity, Cj takes the risk and gently slips a finger under George's collar, hoping to perhaps wake him gently enough to not lose the digit. George wakes, tilts his head, and gives her a HUGE grin. He is fully aware of the distress he's causing Loki, and probably wasn't actually asleep at all. Just faking it and enjoying the fuss. He does that now and then - just works the other dogs' nerves for no other reason than he still can. It's good to be The Senior. Loki got his treat, George got his and a good scritch besides. The Senior wins again.

Then there's Sammie. Sammie is much like a toddler - no matter how sleepy he is, he'll fight fiercely against actually going to sleep for fear of missing something. Today we watched with much amusement as he swayed and sagged, eyes half closed, but simply refusing to just lie down and go to sleep. At one point, his paws started to slide, his head sagged, and he executed a perfect faceplant right into Sherman's butt. He stayed that way for a few minutes, then dragged his head back upright (eyes still shut), sat and swayed again for a while, then staggered off to the other side of the desk chair. He sat there for a while, until he finally waddled off to the bed and went to sleep for real.

I don't know. I try to understand them. Still, there are days that, much as I may try to figure out what's going on in those little heads, there is a part of me that suspects I'm probably happier not knowing. When I see Archie, carrying off Cj's jeans, or Spencer, lying comfortably on the kitchen floor, licking the front of the stove, do I really want a deep understanding of their motives? Ignorance is, after all, said to be bliss. I'm not sure who said that, but my guess is that he or she lived with a pug.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

May 6, 2010 - Nothing You Could Say - My Guys


Lots of changes around here! Ferragamo's moved out, not adopted, but "pugnapped" by another OPR member. She'd volunteered to help us out by picking him up at the vet since I couldn't get there before they closed that day. She picked him up, and promptly fell head over heels! Ferr, you may remember, is a Bugg - half Boston Terrier, half pug, and it seems she grew up with Bostons. Ferr reminded her of one of her best buddies, so they're getting along fabulously at her place now.

Lest you think an empty bunk at the Shady Rest ever stays empty for long, Hawk moved in last week. He's a BIG fellow - not fat, just tall, broad-chested, cobby and buff. Very handsome and a big ol' loverboy. Everything the textbooks say a pug should be - funny, friendly, affectionate and outgoing. Everybody, human, feline or canine, is his new pal. He won't be here too long - he already has a forever home waiting, we just need to make sure he's properly vetted and chipped and he'll be on his way.

So, enough about the fosters. What had me thinking today was my guys - Sammie, Spencer and Loki - the pugs who've found their forever home in the ever-changing Shady Rest. This place that has been but a way station for so many, is their only world. They've all had lives before, but unless something goes radically wrong, this will be their last place to call home.

Sometimes I feel a little guilty. While it's tremendously rewarding for us humans to work with rescue and foster, I have some doubts about the "rewards" for our own dogs. While other pugs are the center of attention most of the time in their own homes, ours must share time, attention, scritches and belly rubs with other dogs, a constantly shifting array of foster brothers who come without warning and depart without explanation.

Still, none of this seems to upset or confuse them. They have grown accustomed to the changes, the coming and going, the sharing, and they accept it all with good natured calm. Other people fret and worry about "How do I introduce a new dog at home?" but we don't. We can leave with one pug in tow in the morning and return in the evening with a completely different one, and all we have to do is announce, "New guy on deck! Be NICE!" and all is well. The newbie will be sniffed from stem to stern, there may be a formal hump or two, then they're considered part of the pack. In no time at all, the new kid will be dozing in a bed next to Sammie, or running to the window to bark next to Spencer.

They make me proud and, as always, they make me think. Would it kill us humans to maybe take life the same way? To accept new people as siblings of a sort, or at least to give them a fair chance to fit in before we nip at them? To trust that change probably isn't all bad and sometimes it can be very good? To share what we have, trusting that there will be enough to go around? To leave past hurts in the past and wait with an open mind and a hopeful heart to see what today brings? How bad could it be to live, just for a while, like a Shady Rest pug?

Just thinkin'...

Y'all take care now.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

April 6, 2010 - The Tug


My it's been busy around here lately!  Orville came back, Sherman joined the inmates, and now there's Ferragamo, our newest foster.  Fresh from a kill-shelter where he was just about out of time, Ferragamo is a Bugg - half pug and half Boston Terrier.  He just arrived yesterday, so he's still settling in and getting used to everybody.  

He's not nearly as "possessed" as those eyes look - just pug eyes in a Boston skull combined with some playtime excitement.  He's very sweet, smart and fun, quite a pleasant little fellow to have around. Needs a snip and a little work on walking with a leash and he'll be ready to make someone a very fine companion.

Meanwhile, all these dogs around got me thinking about The Tug.  If you've ever loved an animal, you know exactly what I'm talking about - that tight little pull in the middle of your chest when you look at a beloved pet and for one, brief moment see him exactly as he is. Not as a pet, or a pest, or a child or therapist or worker or any of the other things we expect them to be, but just as he is.  An innocent, non-human soul in a fur-covered (or feather covered or scale covered) body.  Loving you because that's his nature, depending on you totally because that's his fate, asking only love and kindness in return, but accepting whatever he gets. 

We probably, most of us, don't think about it too hard or too often, but our pets are totally, completely dependent upon us.  They have only what we give them, whether it be luxuries like treats and toys, or basics like food and shelter.  They have little to no choice in who takes them in, yet they love us with all their little hearts once they're in.  It's an awesome responsibility, one far too many people take far too lightly, and one that real pet lovers accept on such a level that it's rarely consciously considered.

The Tug happens where real love, more than you thought you could feel for any other creature save maybe a spouse or child, intersects with a flicker of the realization of how much you mean to them.  I look down and see Sammie, sleeping beside my desk.  He sleeps deeply, in perfect trust that he is safe and protected here, that he doesn't have to sleep the light sleep of potential prey.  He's not prowling for food, because he's secure it will be provided, perhaps later than he'd like some days, but it will.  He snuggles next to Loki, without feeling jealous or competitive, because he's learned that time and money may be short now and then, but there's always enough love to go around and he is, indeed, loved.  

He briefly wakes, probably feeling me looking at him, looks up at me with sleepy brown eyes, happy to find me near, and resumes his nap.  And I feel it. The Tug.  The twinge in the chest, the sting in the eyes, the momentary urge to just sweep him up, hug him close and maybe cry a little into his fur.  Just because he's him.  Just a little dog named Sammie, who has decided, doG knows why, that I am his person and that, pretty much no matter what I do, where I go, how broke or rich I am, how spiffy or unkempt I may be, or how happy or cranky I may be, that I'm okay with him and he wants to be with me.  

They all do it to me at different times, usually when I'm doing something else and not paying much attention.  When Spencer, quiet and gentlemanly and sometimes crowded out in the flurry of more assertive attention-seekers, looks up at me from under my desk, where he's using my foot as a pillow.  Sherman, when I try to put on a sock and he tunnels under my arm and peers into my face, wanting a rub right that minute. I may start to get annoyed at the interruption, but then it hits me.  He's not an "interruption," he's a dog, and he wants to spend some time with me. So I stop for a moment to coo at him and rub his ears.  There will always be more socks.  There will always be more work to be done, but I have learned too dearly that there will not always be more Sherman.  

I dunno. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. I'm sure some psychiatrist could spend page after page going on about brain chemicals and wiring and conditioning and socialization to explain The Tug.  I tend to wonder if maybe it's a reminder from the Creator or from the Universe or from my subconscious or from whomever, that we humans seek answers. We seek spiritual truths.  We look for inspiration, or love, or forgiveness.  Maybe The Tug is a reminder that most of what we say we seek is right there, right in front of us, often overlooked or underestimated, but right there.  The answers to life, the universe and everything are sitting around us, watching us, quietly shedding on our carpets, waiting for us to feel The Tug and pay attention.

Y'all take care now. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 16, 2010 - The Muse of the Manse


It occurred to me, skimming over some of these blog entries, that Cj lurks around the edges of many, and a more complete introduction is long overdue.

It would be easy for a casual reader to conclude that she is merely the "co-innkeeper" of the introductory paragraph. She is, but that is only one small facet of the importance of her presence here.

On a personal level, she has been my spouse, partner, best friend, lover, confidante, co-worker, inspiration and cohort in crime for nearly 25 years now. Those who dismiss the notion of love at first sight have never seen us together. We met, appropriately enough, on Halloween 1986. We both immediately felt a connection, more of a "recognizing" than a "meeting," not so much a "pleased to meet you" as "Oh! There you are! Finally!" We really haven't been voluntarily separated since then.

She still consistently amazes me, this hazel-eyed, red-haired marvel from Oklahoma. She can still surprise me, still make me laugh, still make me think. Her depths of compassion and sympathy, especially for animals, still sometimes brings tears to my eyes and I want to be her, when I grow up. A scared and skittish new foster, afraid of his own shadow and of me, will go to her, allow her to hold him, to croon at him, and cradle him until he's not scared any more. The fact that she willingly fosters with me makes it all possible. I know a few people in rescue who cannot foster dogs, or can only foster one at a time, because of spousal reluctance. Blessedly, I have no such obstacle. Just when I think we cannot possibly work in one more fur-covered anything, and suspect she'd beat me for even suggesting it, she will be the first to say, "Poor little guy. I think we can work him in, can't we?" Couples have divorced over far less than she puts up with daily, without a murmur of complaint.

I'm blessed in so many ways by her constant presence in my life. We've had our rough times - she had a life-threatening case of meningitis a few years ago, with a year of recovery time and two emergency brain surgeries. She's had to endure two phone calls telling her I'd had a heart attack, one call coming from another state. Floods, deaths, financial crises and yet, each simply strengthens our bond and we come through closer than before, still holding hands, still making each other laugh.

Cj is also the origin of my love for pugs. She's the one who first fell in love with our first pug, Petunia. At the time, I pretty much just went along because this particular dog made her very, very happy. Of course, it didn't take long until I was pugged too. Petunia introduced us to pug rescue and life has not been the same since.

Several people have said they enjoy reading the stories of the Shady Rest, and I am deeply grateful and appreciative for each of them. I'm happy if my ramblings about life in this cluttered, fur-tufted little Midwestern suburban brick ranch-style bring a smile, but to give full credit where it is due, Cj is the source. There are eight dogs and four cats here (today); only four dogs and three cats are technically ours, yet I defy anyone to tell from her demeanor and treatment which are which. They all have a warm, safe bed in her heart, whether they're here forever or just for now. Without her tolerance, generosity of spirit, gentleness of soul, and compassionate heart, there would be no Shady Rest. She is my muse - without her constant support, love and inspiration, there would be no stories.

Y'all take care now.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

March 10, 2010 - Sherman Update


Since I've heard some folks wanted updates, I'm happy to report that Sherman, the newest Shady Rest inmate, is settling in very well.  He's starting to relax, learning to appreciate warm stew mixed with his kibble (he was less than impressed on the first go-round), and become quite the snuggler. He actually takes a little offense if you have a free hand and you're not using it to pet him!  This morning, my alarm went off. He lifted his head, and snuggled closer, crawling up my torso until he was comfortably settled with my arm wrapped around him and his head on my shoulder.  Of course, I did what any dedicated employee would do on a work  morning - I hit the snooze bar on the clock so I wouldn't have to disturb him for another eight minutes.

He's smart, too!  We've discovered he's a little finicky on what he eats and there are some dog treats he's just not into, but he does like beef jerky strips.  We tend to switch up treats around here and this week, the treat on offer is a crunchy biscuit type.  All the other dogs love the things, but not so much with Sherman.  Because George sometimes has difficulty chewing harder treats, we always keep a bag of soft treats for him. So, anyway, last night Cj handed out the after-dinner/before-bed treats. Everybody ate their biscuit just fine, except Sherman. He carried his around, dropping it now and then, sniffing at it. He clearly didn't like it but was too polite to just spit it out in front of us.  Then Cj picked up the bag of jerky strips to get one for George.  Sherman perked right up. He picked up his biscuit, carried it over to her, laid the biscuit on the floor at her feet, sat down and looked at the bag of strips.  "Trade?"  His intention couldn't have been clearer if he'd spelled it out with Scrabble tiles.  She took his offer and swapped him his biscuit for a jerky strip, which he promptly carried off and consumed.

He was a little overwhelmed by all the other dogs, when he first arrived (can't say that I blame him - sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by them too, and I'm more or less used to them) but now he's running with the pack like he was born with them.  Freya seems to like him and is already including him in her count-of-noses when she comes in from outside.  Sammie seems to have attached to him as an acceptable successor to Orville, and he gives the old blind fellows no grief.  He does like chasing the cats, but as long as he's not trying to do them any harm, I figure they can use the extra exercise.  The Shady Rest cats are accustomed to new foster dogs and will slap some respect into him if they get tired of it.

So, a couple more weeks, a little socialization and confidence-building, and I'm pretty sure he'll be off to a new forever home, to make some human very, very happy.  

That's another day here the Shady Rest. Ya'll take care.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

March 6, 2010 - You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello


It's been an interesting day here at the Shady Rest.  We did Orville's adoption today, to a fine family about an hour outside of Columbus.  Cj and I both feel/felt SO good about this one!  We've never yet had an adoption of a foster about which we felt bad, but some just seem to be so very right, and this was definitely one of those.  The family, mom, dad, toddler girl and infant boy, had met Orville at the Dogs Rule Doggy Day Care Center Adoption Day a couple of weeks ago.  They were smitten with him, and as far as I could tell, he with them, but they were smart. This was no impulse.  They'd come because they wanted to adopt a rescued pug, and though they thought Orville would be good for them, they met all the other pugs too, just to be sure. They asked questions, lots of questions, and good ones, about the breed and about the individual pugs.  They have a dog, a delightful black lab named Gracie, but never a pug before.  They wanted to do it right. After meeting all the pugs that were in attendance (and there were quite a few), they filled out an adoption form on the spot, with Orville's name on it.

At some point in the process, there was a misunderstanding.  Orville wobbles when he walks. His back end has some weakness and loss of sensation; nothing dramatic, but he wobbles.  The new family had been told he had degenerative myelopathy. For those unfamiliar with degenerative myelopathy, it's an ugly disease, blessedly uncommon in pugs but seen fairly often in larger breeds, like Belgian Malinois.  The cause is unknown, but the sheaths surrounding the nerves start to degenerate and die. When the protective sheath dies, the nerve follows.  It starts at the tail and works forward, a progressive, crippling process with no cure and no treatment. Ultimately, the affected dog will die when the paralysis reaches the diaphragm and the dog can no longer breathe.  The process itself is painless - dead nerves don't register pain.  We lost our first pug, Petunia, to it.  First her back legs gave out and we got her a cart. Then her front legs went, and we put her in an infant carrier. We spoiled her rotten as long as we could, and as long as she had some quality of life and was enjoying herself, we kept going right along with her.  The day finally came that she told us she wasn't having fun any more, and the vet confirmed that it was only a matter of days until she started having trouble breathing, so we let her go.  It was an experience for which I will forever be grateful, and one I wouldn't wish on anyone who loves dogs.

So, anyway, they thought Orville had this condition, but unlike so many people would have, they didn't walk away or request another pug.  They just dug in and started researching the disease, to see what they'd need to do to make his life as filled with love and joy for as long as they might be able to.  Amazing.  Meanwhile, I got on the phone with his vet and after a nice chat, was happily able to confirm that no, he didn't have DM at all.  Orville has an old, stable spinal injury that left some nerve damage behind. He doesn't hurt, and, best of all, is quite likely to never get any worse, but will be wobbling along for years to come.  

Orville arrived at their home and obviously remembered them all, right down to the baby, who greeted us with a HUGE grin.  The little girl was so excited to see her friend again.  At first, I think she thought we were just bringing him for a play date, thanking us for bringing him to visit. When we said he'd be staying, she jumped up and down, then ran to remove his harness and leash, "because he's not going."  Then she had her mom help her carry him upstairs to show him her bedroom, because she wants him to sleep with her.  I didn't notice Orville showing any aversion to this plan. 

I had jokingly commented to some friends that, given the way things usually seem to work here at the Shady Rest, we'd probably get a call to foster another pug within five minutes after Orville's adoption.  I was wrong.  The call came in an hour before the adoption and the dog is a Daug (half dachshund, half pug), not a pug.  :)  His name is Sherman. He's about six years old, very handsome and incredibly shy.  He won't come near me yet, though he's learning to trust Cj. Whenever something scares him, like me walking down the hall or Freya barking, he runs and ducks under Cj's chair.  I hope he'll come around, some at least.  If he's just shy by nature, he may never be the outgoing beast the rest of the Shady Rest inmates are, but that's okay.

So, for all those people who ask us, "How do you do it?  How can you foster a dog and then give it up?  I'd want to keep them all," or "you must be SO unselfish because you foster," there's your answer.  No, you won't want to keep them all, and Cj and I are incredibly selfish. Few things in life are as feel-good rewarding as handing over a homeless dog to a family that's in raptures over him, ready and willing and eager to make the rest of his life as happy and healthy as possible. It's a huge pleasure for us.  Not only that, but think about the numbers.  If you limit yourself to, say, two dogs at a time, you live to be 80 and each dog has a mean life span of about 13 years. That means in your life, you'll only get to meet, interact with, learn from, and enjoy about 12 dogs. I'm greedy - I like meeting new dogs, loving on them, spoiling them, teaching and learning from them. Fostering adds bunches of dogs I wouldn't have otherwise gotten to enjoy.  Again, selfish of me.  I wish more people would indulge themselves and their love of dogs through fostering.  It's one of the few forms of selfish indulgence that does a world of good.

Well, that's just another day at the Shady Rest. Y'all take care.

Friday, February 26, 2010

February 26, 2010 - All Hail the (Drama) Queen


If there's any creature on earth that can make you scratch your head and go "Huh?" it's a pug.

I went to the kitchen the other day, intending to get a couple of cookies. Just cheap little generic vanilla sandwich creams.  As I was pulling a couple out of the cookie canister, I dropped one.  Spencer and Orville had followed me to the kitchen and, of course, when the cookie hit the floor and broke in half, they were on it like ducks on a june bug.  No problem - the cookies are vanilla, probably not the healthiest treat for them (or me either, for that matter) but certainly not toxic, so I let them have it.

Then I saw him - Sammie.  He'd come around the corner just in time to see them, eating cookie pieces, and me, standing there with a handful of cookies.  Not having seen the cookie fall, he came to the only conclusion he could.  I'd given them a cookie and hadn't given him any.  The hurt was obvious.  The big, brown eyes that went from happy to heartbroken.  The ears that sagged from the sides of his head nearly down his neck.  The tail that unrolled like a cheap perm in a rainstorm.  His head went down, he slowly turned, and started to trudge, slowly, down the hall.

I followed, calling his name, offering half of one of the cookies I still had in my hand (the side with the cream, no less).  Nothing. He wasn't having it.  I'd call his name, he'd turn, look mournfully over his shoulder at me with those immensely sad eyes, then turn away and resume his slow procession down the hall.  I called again, again he turned, again he turned away. 

He made me follow him all the way to the office, but he wasn't giving in yet.  He dragged into the office, went to Archie's bed, very deliberately sat down with his back to me, would not turn back again, no matter how much I called his name.  The picture of dejection, head down, tail draped over the edge of the bed.  He sighed.  A heart-rending, three-hanky, tear-jerker performance, Oscar-worthy.

I had to walk around the bed, stand in front of him, and stick the cookie under his nose.  The second I did, the eyes lit up, the ears and tail came back to their usual upright and locked position, and he snarfed down the cookie as if it were a fresh steak. 

Little drama queen, that boy.  With his own, totally trained, lady-in-waiting, chasing him about and forcing him to take cookies.

Just another day at the Shady Rest. Y'all take care now.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January 26, 2010 - A Few Tips for Guests


It occurs to me that what seems normal and every-day here at the Shady Rest might come as a surprise to a visitor, perhaps even a little odd.  So, in the spirit of being prepared, much as one might study a guide of some sort before touring another country, there are a few things you should probably know about life here.

First, watch Archie. He'll be watching you. Closely. With his limited vision, this means he's usually about a quarter of an inch from either your shin or calf.  He's a very involved little pug, always wanting to see and sniff what you're doing, so he's there a lot.  So far we've managed to avoid either serious head trauma on his part or orthopedic repair on ours, but caution while backing up is always a good thing.

Listen to George.  George has roughly two states of being - asleep and annoyed.  Occasionally, he manages both at once.  If he's snoring, he's asleep.  If he's not snoring, he's probably annoyed to one degree or another.  If he's growling, grumbling, snorging, chuffing, or rawring like a small, furry dinosaur, he's seriously annoyed and should be approached with caution.  Treats help.  I don't think he'd ever deliberately bite a human; he'd just think you were the refrigerator, oven, or filing cabinet that's been teasing him.  Once he figures out who you are, he sometimes even slides into Charm Mode and becomes irresistible.  Then, you've got it made.

Keep an eye on Loki, too.  He's small, dark, sneaky and can turn on the cute like most people turn on the light switch.  This makes him far more dangerous than he appears, especially if there's food involved.  If you set down a plate where you think it's out of reach, he appears.  His shiny dark head rises slowly, a little puggy periscope, silent.  The nose seeks, locks on target, the eyes shift, looking for signs of capture. Should the coast be clear, the mark distracted, a black paw edges forward, hooks the edge of the target, and your sandwich will disappear as swiftly and soundlessly as the morning mist evaporates with the dawn.

The coffee pot is always on, the mugs are in the cabinet above and to the right. Help yourself, just know that Spencer will be sitting firmly on your foot by the time you're done pouring. Gently slide your foot out, check for your shoe, then proceed. He won't mind. He'll grin up at you, teefies and all. He's just about impossibly handsome, so just enjoy.  Ear rubs are always welcome.

Orville, on the other hand, will maintain a respectful distance. He's not fearful or shy, just somewhat experienced in being around feet.  He will watch you in solemn silence, looking vaguely worried, but a smile in his direction will be returned with a blink and a tail twitch.  If invited, he'll happily come and snuggle as close to you as he can possibly, physically get, and stay as long as you'll let him.

That leaves Sammie. What do you need to know about Sammie? Ah, what don't you need to know?  He's mouthy, rude, pushy, demanding, with a face like a gargoyle and a heart of gold.  His first appearance can be a little startling - he has a half-inch underbite, with fangs Dracula would envy, bottom front teeth that stick straight out to the front, a nose that's a little snubby even by pug standards, and a tongue that doesn't quite fit all the way in his mouth.  You'll be forgiven for jumping just a little if he pops around a corner unannounced.  He's anything but shy, and likely to body check another pug clean out of the way if you don't pet him first.  Still, he really just wants to be close, and he'll sit and sag and sway and drift and try as hard as he can NOT to go to sleep, just so he doesn't miss it if you want him for anything. 

So, that about wraps it up.  Watch for flying cats, climbing pugs, and Freya, who will herd you around so you don't get lost, and you'll have a fine time here at the Shady Rest.

Y'all take care now.