for the love of dogs: loss

Boo Boo Schnitzel 2012-2022

A few short days ago, I introduced you to my dog (see this post.)

Today we said good-bye to him at VRC in Malvern. The grief has been hiding at the edges since we took him in last week. Now it’s here. The tears are running so fast, I can’t see some moments. But writing has always been my catharsis, so I have to write it out. I need to tell a little of his story. A beautiful rescue dog who will forever, remain in my heart.

He is one of the happiest dogs we have ever had. Always wanted to play, always wanted to bring you a toy. Or greet you with a leaf he picked up off of the ground. A fearless chaser of squirrels, chipmunks, deer.

He came to us at six months old when he was dumped with his sibling on the streets of Philadelphia. I can’t find his first photo when I first met him. I have it somewhere.

Boo Boo came to us unexpectedly. We weren’t looking for him. I had (back then) recently said good-bye to his predecessors, Iggy and Mr. Peanut. Iggy we had lost at 8 to canine lymphoma. As I was finishing my radiation for breast cancer, Iggy was starting chemotherapy.

Anyway, one day a few months after losing first one then the other, I got a phone call at the office from Bill Smith, then at Main Line Animal Rescue. There was a puppy. He and his sister had been dumped on the streets of Philadelphia. A PSPCA volunteer was taking his sister. “Did I want him?” my friend Betsy asked (she was also on the call.) She knew it was soon, and we had just said good bye to Iggy and Mr. Peanut a couple of months before. Then they texted me a photo. It was all over. He came home. He was, as they say, a foster fail. He never left.

Keeping watch for squirrels and foxes and deer and chipmunks.

Ten years have gone by in a flash. I wish I could find the amazing words like John Grogan or James Herriot, but right now I feel, well, gutted. I can see him on the very first day we bought him home and so many moments in between.

He was almost Clarence, but then he was just a Boo Boo.

The kaleidoscope of memories includes him marching back and forth on top of the old logs in the woods, daring a chipmunk to pop up, chasing a deer out of my garden beds, investigating Christmas presents under the tree, rolling in deer poop (yes really, he was Captain Deer Poop), racing through the snow to chase who knows what, barking barking barking (boy loved to bark), curled up on someone’s lap, the grand poobah of the bed, begging food, under my feet like a trip hazard in the kitchen while I cooked, giving us kisses, and chasing the hose.

Oh that dog chasing the hose and water. I could garden up until watering time, and then I had to put him in the house. Then he would sit inside and whine. He just loved chasing the water.

Boo Boo also had a group of ladies. My friends. They would come over and he would sit in their laps making eyes at them.

Puppy dreams as a puppy.

This was a dog who was just happy, so very happy. He loved and was so loved in return.

Then last Tuesday, his world fell apart. It was like he couldn’t control his limbs. We called our regular vet Dr. Hahn at Main Line Vet in Malvern. “Take him to VRC.” Was he sure? Yes he was sure. We went to VRC.

At first they thought it was Myasthenia gravis. Then that test was negative, and so was the extra large tick borne disease panel. Yesterday they did an MRI. The only thing left was something brain related. We almost lost him going under anesthesia to go through the MRI machine. His heart rate dropped dramatically. They stabilized him, he went into the MRI on a ventilator, and he did really well with the test.

Dr. Tracy our neurologist called as he was coming out of anesthesia. We finally had what it was: something kind of rare. Immune mediated meningitis – not environmental. With a lot of dogs the recovery rate can be up to 85%. They treat it with steroids and something cytosar, which is a chemotherapy drug. His brain stem was inflamed, brain swollen.

Deep breath. Here we were again with a dog with a chemotherapy drug. Boo Boo was already on steroids, but they started the infusion yesterday afternoon, and we were ALL hopeful. This time yesterday, I was making plans to bring him home.

At a little before 9:00 AM the phone rang. It was Dr. Tracy. Boo Boo was worse, could we come in. Basically, we were out of options, and we needed to come back for his final time on earth.

We got to VRC and the parking lot was jammed. So many people, so many dogs. They took us back to ICU. We could see his time had come. VRC tried so hard. It was just simply too late when we finally figured it out. In the ICU with Boo Boo was that Bernese Mountain dog that got stuck in the mud on the banks of the Schuylkill River for 13 days until some kayakers saw her. She seems to be holding her own.

We weren’t so lucky. Boo Boo wasn’t so lucky. I am glad for that dog’s humans, but I selfishly wish my boy was in his bed under my desk as I write. Just like he has been for the past decade.

We went to the good bye room and waited for them to disconnect him from his IVs. My friend’s daughter is a nurse at VRC and she bought him to us, which was another blessing in the midst of this raw sadness and grief I am feeling. She is also a magnificent human being like Dr. Tracy, and has that soul of true kindness just like her mama.

We all held him, and in true Boo Boo fashion, he tried to rally because his humans were with him. He wagged his tail some, and gave us all a lot of kisses. That almost broke me then and there, because he had not been able to do that really for a week.

Boo Boo loved the snow.

I told him I loved him and always would. They came back with the drugs. I held him as he passed. He quietly slipped away and I felt his last beat of his little and huge dog heart. Dr. Tracy was with us the entire time. I am forever grateful for his care and for genuinely caring about our dog.

We are not bringing his ashes home. He is in every corner of our home and forever in our hearts. He is being donated to Penn Vet for science. Maybe then someday, other families will have answers more quickly and not go through what we are going through. Veterinary medicine, like human medicine is constantly evolving. I daresay, even a decade ago, we would not have even had this last week with him.

Now all we will have left after the sadness and grief recedes, are memories. Memories of a dog whom I loved fiercely (even when he decided to pee on the edge of a cabinet, or door, or something he wasn’t supposed to), and who loved all of us just as fiercely in return. It will be a long time before I stop thinking I see him running through the back yard into the woods, or running OVER a squirrel to chase the one beyond that particular squirrel. At night I will continue to hear the bark bark bark of his nightly routine and woods patrol for a long time.

Dogs give us that unconditional love. In return, we have to do what’s right when it’s time. And that is the hardest part, setting them free of what is ailing them. We want to keep them close, but then we have to say good bye, because it’s the terribly hard and right thing to do.

Well that is the abbreviated story of 10 years of a glorious dog life. How lucky we were to have him.

Chase those heavenly squirrels now my darling Boo. Run free forever. The bad stuff is over.

Me? I wish I could be brave and have the proverbial stiff upper lip. But I just can’t. My heart aches. These magnificent creatures are in our lives for such short periods of time. There is never enough time. Then they live forever in our hearts and memories.

Run free my darling dog. The bad things are over.

for the love of dogs.

Dogs. The canine hearts of our lives. They make us crazy, then they make us laugh. They give us the unconditional love that no human being, especially in today’s world is even capable of.

I have one that is suddenly very ill and I don’t even know how to process it in my head. I want to be positive and know that he’s going to come home and I’ll be able to love him for a few more years, but I am equally parts terrified he just won’t.

He is one of the happiest dogs we have ever had. Always wants to play, always wants to bring you a toy. Or greet you with a leaf he picked up off of the ground. A fearless chaser of squirrels, chipmunks, deer.

He came to us at six months old when he was dumped with his sibling on the streets of Philadelphia. He is now 10. And right now he’s at VRC in Malvern as they try to fix what’s wrong.

And save his life.

Literally a couple of days ago it’s like he lost all control of like his motor functions. In other words imagine trying to tell your arms and legs and head and tongue and throat to move only they’re not. He has been initially diagnosed with a rare disease called myasthenia gravis…they think.

Myasthenia gravis is nasty disease…in humans and dogs. Myasthenia gravis is a disease in which there is a malfunction in the transmission of signals between the nerves and muscles. Dogs with myasthenia gravis exhibit extreme weakness and excessive fatigue. Sometimes dogs are born with it, but mostly they acquire it.

My dog appears to have the acquired version. He’s gone from being a dog who literally bounces, to one yesterday who was like a limp rag doll when he went back to VRC for the second time within 24 hours.

When they initially took him in they thought they’d be able to send him home with steroids pending the outcome of the rest of the tests. And of course this is a disorder that literally maybe has like one lab in the entire United States to analyze it.

Terrifyingly he had a few good minutes yesterday and then the rest of the day was a roller coaster for me….and him. He ate 3 tablespoons of canned food. He didn’t take in any water. He was having difficulty swallowing too. And then when I took his temperature twice he had a very weird temperature reading, so back he went to VRC.

More about the disease:

Some dogs diagnosed with myasthenia gravis require treatment in the hospital until their medication dose is stabilized. These dogs are treated with a class of medication that inhibits a nervous system enzyme called acetylcholinesterase. Anti-acetylcholinesterase medications will be required for the rest of the dog’s life. Because of their compromised ability to swallow, some dogs will actually inhale food, liquid, or vomit, resulting in aspiration pneumonia. Aspiration pneumonia is extremely serious and often requires aggressive intensive care including oxygen therapy, antibiotics, IV fluid therapy, and supportive care. If the dog is unable to eat or drink without regurgitation, a feeding tube may be needed until the dog’s medication doses are stabilized.

Ancillary treatment of myasthenia gravis is as important as determining appropriate medication doses. In cases where there is a thymoma, it must be removed surgically. Food and water dishes should be elevated, and these dogs often do best with smaller, more frequent meals of a high-quality, high-calorie food. There is no single “best” nutritional formulation for dogs with myasthenia gravis. It is important to assess what works best for the individual dog.

Most dogs with myasthenia gravis will limit their own activity based on the severity of their muscle weakness…..improved muscle strength is an obvious barometer of response to therapy. In addition, chest radiographs (X-rays) are evaluated every 4-6 weeks for resolution of megaesophagus. Finally, acetylcholine receptor antibody levels are evaluated every 8-12 weeks, and should decrease into the normal range with remission.

~ from VCA animal hospitals website.

I am going to be honest I don’t know where to go in my head with this. I cry when no one’s around. To watch a dog that is so joyful suddenly be like a limp washcloth is just horrible.

This begs the age old question of how long do we keep trying and if it doesn’t work when do we say goodbye?

I lost a dog to cancer who was going through chemotherapy when I was going through radiation treatment. I made a decision back then I would never do that again. At the end of the day I feel like I should have let him go, versus what I put him through. So in a way I’m faced with that decision again.

I’m not making any decisions today, but I have to keep in mind as we try to go through this what is in the best interest of my dog. If he wants to try, I will try. I figure that’s the best approach I can have. I have a friend who had a cat with this who lived a few more years after diagnosis with a great quality of life. I’m hoping for that. But right now I’m just scared.

I have not heard anything since my husband took him back to VRC last night. I am sending up prayers to St. Francis like a house on fire to send my boy home with some quality of life.

This will probably be a very odd post for a lot of my readers to read, but it goes back to why I write a lot of the time anyway. I write for me. It’s part of my process. And I’m sure the people who love to hate me although they’ve never met me or had a conversation with me will be cheering that something horrible has happened in my life. I can’t control that. That’s on them for being miserable human beings.

But for those of you who are animal lovers, if you have a minute send up a prayer to St. Francis for my boy.

Thanks for stopping by.

more stupid human tricks

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Canadian Geese.  We have a love hate relationship with them.  They can be dirty birds and they will defend their nests and CAN pick odd unexpected places to nest.

BUT.

They are wildlife. You can read about them on the Pennsylvania Game Commission Website.

Canadian Geese mate for life. In Pennsylvania we have migratory and non-migratory populations.

58922_157217640957862_2520117_nPeople get all pissy about them on their properties.  So they buy those metal predator cut-outs. And wonder why they don’t work. Ummm maybe they should occasionaly MOVE them around?  I see these cut-outs at Immaculata and they have never moved since they were put up…which is why you can see the geese right next to them.

Today on NextDoor a thread popped up.  About geese and they are off and running (only sharing this much):

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They are talking about East Goshen Township in this thread.  Yes this stuff – goose birth control – exists.  But if the wrong or grossly uneducated try to use this do you all think it will affect JUST geese?  If this were an alternative it would have to be very specifically administered, not just tossed out onto fields by crews cutting fields in parks.

But because it is NextDoor and most of the people on NextDoor seem to think no one else sees their crazy (which is why I blotted out the names of those commenting), these comments popped up:

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Ok can I be horrified now? First the whole Vaseline of it all, and oh hell you deserve to be pecked and attacked if you do that.  Secondly the profoundly disturbing pronouncement of someone witnessing “township officials” pour oil on wild goose eggs at some spot at Route 3 and 252.  This is cruel and inhumane on ALL counts.

If this is true at Route 3 and 252, which municipality is this?  Marple? And would they REALLY do that?  I actually e-mailed the township to ask.  Don’t know that they will reply. But I am hoping this is just some thing that DOESN’T actually happen.

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An easy way to manage them is to let humans who train field dogs clear the fields of geese.  They used to do that down at Haverford College years ago. And plenty of places employ the services of those who remove the poop.

No solution is perfect but hey don’t we live in Chester County at least partially for the nature? Open space (what’s left of it) etc?

Anyway, the cruelty of humans combined with stupidity is always a dangerous combination, isn’t it?

 

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moo!!!! “oreo cows”

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Oreo cows!!  AKA Belted Galloways (Scottish origin). These are the black and whites who live in Willistown.  (Or I think it’s Willistown) Some brown and white oreos live out off of 401.

My husband will tell you I have an affinity for farm animals. Not all. But I do love photographing cows, chickens, and goats. And horses, ponies, donkeys. Can’t forget them. (But I digress.)

Anyway….here’s hoping cow photos aren’t too controversial since today someone told me I was posting/writing too much “liberal propaganda”.  Sorry not sorry, poor darling, but Ivana’s shoe line isn’t to my liking and she’s shutting down her fashion empire anyway.

Ciao for now LOL

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snowy sunday morning

We went to sleep to the almost silent patter of snow.  I say almost silent, because when sleet is mixed in there is the little whoosh sound.

I woke in the middle of the night and went to the window to watch the stillness below.  From the brightness of a snowy night, when everything has that unearthly sort of glow, I watched one of our foxes pad silently across the back garden.  It was old fox, whose face is a good part white now.  This fox looks like they are wearing a fur head warmer because there is a halo of fox red fur around their face, but their face now is whitened with age.

My husband laughs at me watching things in the still of the night in the back, but it’s like the woods come alive.  Deer tiptoeing across the rear of the woods, along the back neighbor’s fence line.  A trio of raccoons and even foxes eating the birdseed scattered on the ground for them.

A Midwinter Night’s Dream.

It’s lovely and almost lyrical as well as magical to watch. The sparkling new fallen snow and the woodland animals roaming in the night.  On some nights like this if the young raccoons are out, they tumble and wrestle, enjoying the freedom of playing.

Day breaks and a pinkish orange glow grows upward as light and dawn creep in.  Everything is still lush and quiet with the startling whiteness of the snow.  Then dawn is gone and skies are blue.  That is a whole other kind of beauty.

The luxury of open space means I look out to snow covered trees and branches and shrubs. Nature’s fine frosting.  I hear the woodpeckers squabbling in the tall red oak.  The mourning doves and cardinals flutter in first, followed by the other song birds.

Overhead, a hawk cries out.

This is morning in Chester County.  This is what we need to preserve before developers and greedy corporate giants like Sunoco displace all of this loveliness.  These are the moments individuals like the head of the Chester County Planning Commission does not get, because he hails from the land of infill development. Traffic noise and people squashed in like lemmings is his norm. He doesn’t live in Chester County, which I have always felt should be required. People like him do not get the simple joys of a snowy Chester County morning. Which, subsequently, is why we need more land and historic preservation, and less development.

It also makes me think of our Revolutionary War Soldiers.  For them, a Chester County Winter wasn’t so pleasant I think.  But you have to wonder, in the snow last night, did their ghosts traverse Crebilly in Westtown on silent maneuvers?

Or what about the old souls laid to rest at Ebenezer on Bacton Hill Road? What kind of winters did they see?

What did William Lockwood think when he looked out of the windows of Loch Aerie on a snowy night?

Or the fine people of Chester County’s now many historic villages? What did they see? Sugartown? Goshenville? Marshalton? St. Peter’s? Malvern? Other villages? Can’t you just hear the early morning clop, clop, clop of horses drawing carts on the old streets of West Chester and Kennett Square?

When we look out our windows at the snow in the evening, or the middle of the night, or at dawn and daybreak, who else has looked before us and what did they think?

Enjoy the snow before it all melts.

christmas bluebirds

I love my own personal Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom that lives in our woods and in the gardens.  This year I have some new winter residents, Eastern Bluebirds.  I first saw them a month ago, and then I saw them again just now. It’s official, I’m in love.

These are the things that make living here in Chester County, PA so darn special. These are the things we need to conserve and preserve.  These are the things that all the wanton development spoils.  Tyvec wrapped stick frame construction with nary a tree to be seen can never, ever replace the simple joy of seeing bluebirds in your garden.

Anyway, if you enjoy the birds one of the things you can do is participate in Cornell’s Feeder Watch.  It’s fun! (My husband doesn’t know it yet, but I signed us back up!)

sometimes you have to slow down and smell the flowers…and help a turtle cross the road

I read this quote today on a friend’s Facebook timeline:

“This is what Christianity is about. Whether it’s ethics, our understanding of God, our thoughts about the future, or the central image of the Christian story—it’s all love, from first to last. Every bit of it is an attempt to explain, demonstrate, or extrapolate on love.”

 

It was shared along with this blog post : by Micha Redding “Christianity is Love”  

So simple, yet so powerful.  The post also contained this:

Love your neighbor as yourself’. Love does no harm to its neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.” (Romans 13:8-10)

Yet we seem to live in a country that seems so blood thirsty today for lack of a better description.  Some people absolutely can’t feel good about themselves unless they are trying to beat someone else down. They seem to think they find their power by hurting others.  Do they? Or does that just make them sad and mean?

I saw these quote after I was thinking about this post, which is about most simply put sometimes you have to slow down and smell the flowers…and help a turtle cross the road.

Seriously.

This morning I was enjoying the simple majesty of a cool, slightly damp morning, my song birds and my flowers, when I saw something in the road.

Yes it is a turtle.  As I later found out, a snapping turtle.  I gave it wide berth and walked behind it like a shepherd until it crossed the road.

And the marvelous thing about the snapping turtle that did not snap? It got people outside for a few minutes, away from the minutia of daily life to see a creature we do not often get a glimpse at.

It was nice.  It was one of life’s little interludes. Maybe the universe is telling us all something?