Sunday, December 15, 2013


Miss Scarlett
One of the things I looked forward to all Fall was Scarlett and Zak's first experience in the snow.   Scarlett was sick when we got our first measurable snow; then I was sick and then it got bitterly cold - which, in this part of the world, means nights where the mercury drops to around - 20 degrees F and days where it never rises above zero.   So we've been a little slow to get out and play in the snow but this past week we finally did.

Zak doing the bunny hop
Scarlett and Zak love the snow!!   With their short little legs and long backs, they have to propel themselves by pushing up with their back legs and then taking a flying leap forward.   Scarlett was doing this so gracefully yesterday that it almost looked like she was in slow motion.    They love to stick their faces way down in a snow bank (brrr ...!!) and discover what treasures might by there (like a frozen 'poopcycle' or a bit of a pizza crust!)

Running through the snow helps develop good strong back muscles.   The breeder I got Scarlett from said she disliked the heat but never minded the cold.   Of course 'cold' is a relative term and means something entirely different in Alabama than it does here, but she really does seem to be in her element.   Just like Princess and Dee Dee used to do, she will stand on three legs and alternately lift the fourth leg off the pavement for a brief warm up!   With another week to go before it is officially 'winter', it is starting out as a very cold and snowy one.
Scarlett and Zak LOVE the snow!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Reason for Thanksgiving

I enjoyed a quiet Thanksgiving weekend at home with the 'kids'.   I detest Black Friday shopping and I had a bad cold anyway, so I got my Christmas decorating done, worked on my Christmas cards and played with the dogs.   After a busy Fall, it was nice to have four days to hang out together.

There is a saying that 'the squeaky wheel gets the oil'.   I have experienced the truth of that this Fall with the dogs.   As a young puppy, Zak is very cute and equally demanding.   The boy always seems to want something - to go outside, play, eat or be cuddled.    Princess isn't as demanding but she's old and has quite a bit of back pain.   She has always been an absolute stinker about taking pills and she takes several now (Rimadyl, Tramadol and Chondroglucosamine).   It can take up to a half hour to get them down and with the Tramadol I literally open her mouth, tilt her head back as far as I can and DROP the pill down her throat.   There's just no other way. Her world has been rocked with the presence of the new puppies and I've probably gone overboard to make sure she doesn't feel displaced.

That leaves Scarlett - the proverbial 'middle child' - the one who gets ignored; not intentionally, but because the other two take so much time and also because she is such a good girl  She is always content and never fusses.   She's also been a little harder to housebreak, and because of that, has spent more time in her kennel.   We just didn't bond as quickly as Zak and I did.

That all changed last weekend.

On Sunday afternoon I took the dogs to the park.   It's a park we go to frequently and they ran and chased the Frisbee like they always do.   We came home, they had supper and about 6:30 Scarlett needed to go outside.   She wasn't out long and seemed fine when she came in.   But about a minute after going to her kennel, she threw up.   A LOT.   It was just her supper though, and I didn't think anything of it.    I went to the kitchen to get some rags to clean it up and was gone less than 30 seconds.   When I came back, Scarlett had collapsed and was lying on her side, completely unresponsive!   She was leaking some bodily fluids but not seizing.  I grabbed her and she was limp.   Trying not to panic but not sure what I was seeing, I called my neighbors, Mike and Gina.   Mike met me in the yard and we jumped into his pickup to go to the Red River Animal Emergency Clinic in Fargo (which we couldn't find at first).    Scarlett was taking short, shallow breaths and I could detect a faint pulse.   Gina  called ahead to tell them we were coming and they met us at the door and whisked her back to an exam room where they immediately started her on oxygen and IV fluids. 

The next hurdle was to try and figure out what had happened to her.  It seemed clear that she had ingested some kind of poison - but what???  Her PT and PTT (measuring clotting time) were extremely low, suggesting rodenticide.     I don't have mouse poison around my house and neither does my neighbor, but there was the possibility that she'd gotten into it someplace else.   Scarlett was started on plasma until she could have several injections of Vitamin K.   She remained 'critical but stable' over the next 36 hours.   She was transferred to Prairie Winds on Monday,  where she had more tests and Dr. Wisnewski consulted with a toxicologist.   The mystery deepened when they discovered her liver was severely toxic as this is not typical of  rodenticide.  Did I drop a cold tablet (with Tylenol) that she ingested?   Possibly, but not likely, since cold tablets are in blister packs and I didn't find anything like that on the floor.   Nothing was making sense and we may never know for sure what happened.   Finally, on Tuesday afternoon she began to show signs of improvement and her blood work normalized.   She got to come home that night and Zak literally jumped up and down on all fours and slathered her with puppy kisses when he saw her!   He missed her so much! 

I worked partial days this week, so that I could keep an eye on her and stay on top of her medications.   I've only had her two months and while this isn't the way I would have chosen to bond with her, it's the way it happened.   I've enjoyed just holding her and she is getting stronger every day.   She'll be on a special diet for a few weeks and have her blood work rechecked at that time.

One of the hard things in a pet emergency is the series of financial decisions you are forced to make at a time when you're stressed and emotionally distraught.    When you walk in the door of the Red River Animal Emergency Clinic you put down a $500 deposit, plus another $400 for intubation.    And that is just the start.   Lab work, overnight monitoring, plasma  .... it all adds up very quickly.   You don't want to have to make such hard decisions, but you have no choice.   I had to call my financial advisor on Monday afternoon, and he was extremely helpful.   I've looked at pet insurance but for three dogs it is very expensive and I've never sprung for it.   It certainly would have been nice this week!   There are also special charities like CorgiAid and CorgiPals that help with catastrophic veterinary bills.  These are difficult and unpleasant realities that must be faced, and things such as prognosis, age of the dog and your own financial situation all factor in.  In the end, I decided to 'go for broke' and am very glad that I did.  Scarlett is almost back to normal and the experience has deepened our bond and my love for her. 

I am so very, very grateful to the Fargo Emergency Veterinary Clinic (Dr. Stegman and Dr. Kramer) and Prairie Winds Veterinary Center (Dr. Alicia Wisnewski and her outstanding staff of vet-techs) for saving my sweet Scarlett's life.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Finding our Rhythm

I have now had Scarlett for six weeks and Zak for eight. We are finding our rhythm. Mornings start early (before 6:00) and I have tried to build in enough flexibility for a couple of hiccups. We generally have them. There have been days when I've slid into my car, taken a deep breath and burst into tears because I'm so exhausted. But those days are fewer and farther between now, the puppies know what they're supposed to do when I let them out (and usually do it) and if I'm lucky, I even have time to sit down and watch a few minutes of GMA while I eat my bowl of cereal.

Zak is now 3-1/2 months and growing like a weed. He started puppy kindergarten this past week and we met another corgi there who came from the same breeder. She is just two days younger than him, but just half his size! Butters is 6 lbs and Zak is 12! Her mother is smaller than Zak's, and males are larger anyway.  Still, the contrast was striking. Zak was the star pupil this week, sitting quietly on my lap while most of the other puppies were barking. He was a little taken aback by it all. He barks plenty at home! He is into all kinds of puppy mischief; you name it and Zak has done it (or at least tried it). He is too smart for his own good sometimes. He is very good at problem solving.   He has many hiding places in the house and will run to whichever one is closest when he's in trouble. He learned how to poop outside his kennel. He just puts his little butt up against the edge and it lands outside, on the floor! No messy kennel! One night last week I was in the basement, putting clothes in the drier when I heard Zak yelp! I ran up the stairs in time to see Princess slinking off with her head down and ears straight out to the side. I can pretty well imagine what happened. Zak was trying to get her to play with him and she had enough! He has respected her space since then.

Scarlett is in Beginning Obedience class and learning all of the basic commands like "come", "sit", "stay", "down" and "heel". She's doing very well and loves the one-on-one time with me. She is a sweetheart and as long as I give her plenty of playtime each day, she is a very content and happy girl.
I took Princess to the vet in Casselton yesterday for her annual check up and to have a heart-to-heart with the doctor about her overall condition. Other than pretty severe back pain, she isn't doing too badly. Heart, lungs, teeth, eyes all looked good. She has cataracts but they're not severe. The huge fatty tumors on her side, while not attractive, are not pushing on any vital organs or nerves. But we do have to get on top of the back pain. She has trouble pooping - but it's not a digestive problem; the doctor thinks it's because her back hurts. So she is now on two pain medications twice a day, and will be for the rest of her life. They are commonly used in elderly dogs and that's certainly the stage of life she is in. She sleeps a lot and is always read for a car ride. She sleeps with me, but has been willing to allow Zak on the bed. She lies against my legs, and he's up by my head. Scarlett prefers her kennel. It all works out.

We're still waiting for our first snow of the season. I'm in no particular hurry for it, but I am looking forward to seeing how Scarlett and Zak react to it. It will be new to both of them. That will be my next post.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


She's a southern belle from Alabama with a gorgeous red coat.   Hence, the name Scarlett. 

But she is nothing like the feisty, determined protagonist portrayed by Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind.   No, my Scarlett is a sweet and affectionate girl who is learning to be an 'inside dog' after spending the first year of her life as an outdoor kennel dog with her mother, sister and other extended corgi family.  

In July I started looking for a slightly older puppy to help fill the void in my life and be a companion to Princess.   After contacting a number of breeders in the Midwest and discovering that 'teenagers' are hard to find, I saw a picture of 10 month old Scarlett (then called Liz) on a website and was captivated by her beautiful red coat and bright, intelligent eyes.   The breeder was from in Alabama and didn't want to put a puppy on a plane, and I had a trip to Africa coming up.   So we had some logistical issues to work out. We decided to meet at their vacation home in the Ozarks in September.   Two weekends ago, my friend Betty and I drove to southern Missouri to get her.

Being taken away from your mother, sister and the only home you've ever had is traumatic and Scarlett was pretty skittish at first.   She is a good size female - lean and muscular, with strong back legs.    She'd approach me gingerly, then spring back and run away when I held out my hand.   I'm not sure if she was nervous or just wanted to play.   She has a sweet personality, is affectionate and more cautious than Princess and Dee Dee ever were. Things that I took for granted with my other girls - like jumping in and out of the car without help - are new to Scarlett, and she is slowly gaining confidence to do them.  The nice part of that is that she doesn't  jump on the furniture.  

Scarlett does very well in her kennel and seems to enjoy the safety and security of her 'own house'.   She is very quiet and rarely fusses.   I still can't figure out when she sleeps as she always seems to be sitting up and looking around - even in the middle of the night!    She has a lot of puppy energy and loves to run.  Now that we are home and she is feeling more settled, I'm able to drop her leash and let her run in the yard.  She loves her toys.   And her favorite toy is Zak!    Those two absolutely adore each other!   No matter that she weighs five times as much as him; he doesn't seem the least bit intimidated!    If I let one of them out, they'll go straight to the other one's kennel.    Scarlett can be kind of rough (not aggressive; just plays hard) so they do need supervision, but for the most part I just let them roughhouse.    I got a few videos of them in the back yard last week.    I love the way she 'body slams' him and the way he grabs her leash and tries to drag her around!  They are very entertaining, and as he grows and they become closer in size, they will have even more fun together. 

Scarlett has a few vices, but they are mostly related to her age.   Because she is full grown, it's easy to forget that she is barely a year old.    She is close to being housebroken and getting more privileges every day. We are still getting to know each other, and she has a strong desire to please me.    She doesn't seem to chew a lot;  however, she loves to tear things; bedding in particular (dust ruffle, comforter etc.) and also paper!   She shredded my homeowners insurance bill yesterday.   Does that mean I can use 'the dog ate my homework' excuse?
A lot of people have asked how Princess is doing with all the change.   I wasn't too concerned when I brought Zak home because other than being an annoyance, I couldn't imagine her viewing him as much of a threat.   But I did wonder how she would respond to a larger, highly energetic one year old.   They have both done wonderfully. Scarlett and Zak are best pals, and they seem to understand that Princess is old and tired and doesn't want to play with them.  They leave her alone and seem to actually respect her.   A few evenings ago I went outside and Princess and Scarlett were sitting together on the front porch, just 'hanging out'.   Made me smile.  

And so .... we are now a 'family of five' and life has been pretty crazy!  It takes me a good hour in the morning just to get everyone out to go potty, fed, exercised and back in their kennels.   We repeat the same routine in the evening.  I come home at lunchtime to let them out, and I have a professional dog sitter come in once a day as well.   This is a 'season' and life won't always be this hectic.    I'm extremely busy, but not stressed and went into this with my eyes open.  I try to stick to somewhat of a schedule although things don't always go the way I plan them.  I've been grateful for a mild and pleasant Fall as it's much easier to take dogs out at 3 a.m. when it's 50 degrees than it is at 20!    But winter is coming - I know that - and we'll adjust when the time comes.   It will be fun to see Zak and Scarlett experience snow for the first time!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Introducing Zacchaeus!

There's an old Sunday School song about a man named Zacchaeus who was 'short in stature' .

Zacchaeus was a wee little man; a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see.

I always thought it would be a cute name for a corgi.

I wasn't really planning to get a puppy though. At least not anytime soon.   I have a 15-20 minute commute and I knew that a puppy would be tough to work into my schedule.   "Someday" I told myself. 

"Someday" came two weeks ago.

After Dee Dee and Elvis died, I was looking at different corgi breeder websites.  I'd been thinking that I would get a tri-colored male someday but the more I looked at pictures, the more I realized that sable (brown with black and white accents) is my favorite corgi color.   That's what Dee Dee and Elvis were.    Elvis also had a full white collar which was awfully pretty.   I mentioned this to my Facebook friend, and fellow corgi fanatic, EJ.   She agreed.

Two weeks ago I got an Email from EJ telling me about this adorable male puppy (sable with a full white collar) that was available from a breeder here in Minnesota.  When I saw his picture, my heart melted.   I was still recovering from my Africa trip and tried to talk myself out of it.   Besides, I reasoned, surely the breeder had other serious inquiries.   As it turned out, she did - but, having seen my blog, I rose to the top of the list.   We had some cyber-chatter throughout the morning, and by lunchtime, he was mine!

Princess and I drove to southern MN last Saturday to pick him up.   Just seven weeks old and 3-1/2 lbs, I was in love - and terrified - at the same time.   I've never had a puppy that young before!  He is adorable!    He's affectionate, loves to cuddle, loves to play, loves to eat and loves to chew!   We've had a very good 'first week'.  Zak has learned his name, is learning to 'come' and also learning to go potty outdoors.     I take an early lunch and come home and let him out each day and I hired a very nice young gal to come and let him out mid-afternoon.   Until he gets a little bigger, I'm supplementing those breaks with puppy pads and he has done very well with them too.   He does not like a messy kennel and lets me know when it needs to be cleaned up!   Now we're working on learning to let me know before he dirties it.

Zak is full of puppy playfulness and curiosity.   He adores Princess and wants to go wherever she goes.   She's learning to tolerate him!   He visits her food dish whenever he's out of his kennel, and we're using that to teach the meaning of the word 'no'.     Zak loves to play with his ball, play tug-of-war with a shoestring and generally chew on anything handy.   He mastered the front steps in about a day and follows Princess over to the neighbors.   Fortunately, though, he wants to go where I go, and he feels most secure in our house.   He's not fond of loud noises, including motorcycles and trucks!

He is a lot of work, but even more fun!   He's grown noticeably this week so I'm trying to enjoy each day because I know he won't stay this size for very long.

Next week we have another major change coming!   Stay tuned for another introduction.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Africa !!!

I am hijacking my own blog to post a few pictures of my recent African safari.   It was a hard summer, with the deaths of Dee Dee and Elvis, as well as some health challenges and difficult things going on at work.   At one point I canceled my reservation, as I just didn't think I was going to be able to swing it with everything else that was going on.    After a four day pity party, I decided to re-book it and 'push through'.   It was an opportunity to check a big item off my 'bucket list' and getting to do it with my brother Dan was a bonus!

I arrived in Johannesburg on August 16 and we had the better part of one day to spend before taking off on the 15 day camping safari.   We decided to take a tour of Sowato, the largest of the African townships created in the early 20th century, a product of segregationist planning that moved Africans to the slums on the pretext of preventing the spread of disease.   Today it is an urban area of more than one million people, and a study in contrasts.   Some areas have been developed into modest middle class housing while other areas are still waiting for the infrastructure that was promised after the end of Apartheid.  Cars are far more a status symbol than one's home, and it is not uncommon to see a BMW parked in front of a shanty.    We toured some of the poorer areas and Dan is pictured here, handing out oranges to the children.   These people have SO little - especially by American standards - but the sense of community is so strong that, at least on the surface, there is a surprising acceptance of - and contentment with - their living conditions.   It was an eye-opening day that was quite a contrast to the rest of our trip. I'm glad we did it.

Handing out oranges to the children of Sowato 

The next day we began the overland camping safari with Intrepid Travel.  Our group of 12 was made up of mostly Aussies and Brits; all highly educated and very well traveled.  Dan and I were the oldest, and only Americans.

Okavango Delta 
There is not time or space to tell all of our stories or describe all that we saw and did, but I'll mention some of the highlights.    We visited a remote village steeped in tribal customs, spent two nights in the Okovango Delta (a complex eco system of waterways that is life-giving to the vast desert regions of Botswana and Zimbabwe), had a couple of days at Victoria Falls, as well as Chobe and Kruger National Parks.  Early morning game drives, and evening sunset cruises gave us ample opportunity to view a huge variety of birds and wildlife, including all of the 'big five'.  Among the most memorable:

1)  A HUGE population of elephants on the Chobe River, including one 'family of four' that we watched, mesmerized, for over an hour.

Family of Four - Chobe River 
Lioness feasting on a dead elephant
2)  Two lioness' feasting on the trunk of an elephant that had died (of anthrax, our guide told us) within the past 24 hours.
Lioness feasting on a dead elephant

3) A lioness leading her cubs to the river bank to cool off and drink.

Lioness and cubs

Mama baboon and baby 
4) Baboons that were everywhere - playing tag in the trees, nurturing their young and in general, acting a whole lot like humans!  We had to keep the zipper pull at the top of our tent doors (out of their reach) because they have figured out how to unzip the tents and steal everything from items of food and clothing to computer cables and camera equipment!   They were enormously entertaining - up until the last day, when I saw a fairly large one snatch a little steenbok (small antelope) from the woods, dart across the road with it and tear into it!   The full cycle of nature can be hard to watch sometimes.

Victoria Falls from a helicopter
There are many, many more memories and lasting impressions I could write about.   Just a few of them (in no particular order):

A three hour ride in a mokoro (dug out canoe) into the Delta with local polers serving as our guides and providing meals and entertainment.
Into the Delta

Swimming with the crocs and hippos in the Delta.

Amazing birds in the Delta and even more amazing sunsets!
Sunset over the Delta

Explanation of the 'long drop' - our delta toilet!
Explanation of the "Long Drop"

Giving our leftover food to the local guides.

Learning the various dialects of English used by the Africans, the Aussies and the Europeans.

Many, many hours spent on a hot truck without air conditioning or window shades.

Drinking water, water and more water - and still struggling to stay hydrated.  

Walking through chemical solution to prevent the spread of Foot and Mouth Disease at various checkpoints along the highway.

Watching a leopard - camouflaged in the brush.

Victoria Falls
Having our safari vehicle blocked by a HUGE bull elephant that could have easily overturned us .... waiting patiently and quietly until he decided to saunter off.

Watching an elephant that was stuck in a thorny bush with a baby under her trunk.

Giraffes dropping to get a drink - cautiously watching for predators in their vulnerable position.

Setting up charging station most every night with a huge array of cameras, smart phones and laptops!

Interesting, fascinating billboards and signs - such as the one we saw to the "Tent and Toilet" Campground!
Sunset Cruise on the Chobe River

Village children running for miles alongside our truck - SOOO excited that we were coming to THEIR village.

People who have SO LITTLE and yet welcomed us with such warmth and genuine hospitality.   I understand why people fall in love with Africa.   It is a magical place, and I am so blessed to have take the trip of a lifetime.

Rhino Sanctuary

Cape Buffalo

Doing Laundry at Victoria Falls

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Grieving Together

I had no idea how Princess would respond to Dee Dee's death.   No idea at all.   I had read articles recommending that two dog families should take the surviving dog along to the clinic so that they can sniff the body.  Supposedly, that helps them understand that their companion is dead.   There was just no way I could do that.   I was so completely overwhelmed that morning that it was all I could do to get myself out of bed and to the car with Dee Dee.   Taking Princess with me was unthinkable.

Besides, we were at Tim's cabin.   We weren't at home, weren't in our usual routine and she had Elvis to play with.   On top of that, she was dealing with an upset tummy herself that week.   So it wasn't until we got home, two days later, that I expected her to even notice that Dee Dee wasn't there.    I knew she'd notice that Dee Dee was gone, but I didn't know if she'd care.   After all, I'd had her almost a year before I got Dee Dee, and she'd never quite forgiven me for it.   And, while they certainly enjoyed playing together, Dee Dee could be a bully - especially towards Princess.   So I  wasn't sure how she'd respond. 

I was surprised.   Princess grieved.   Clearly.   For the first week or so, she wouldn't eat from her bowl unless I put food in Dee Dee's bowl too.   She would eat hers, and leave Dee Dee's untouched.   Eventually I'd pour Dee Dee's food back into the bag, and we'd repeat the same process the next day.    The even stronger response came when she wanted to go outside.   As the girls got older, they mostly slept when they were in the house, but they loved to play together outside.   Whenever one of them needed to go out, they would run back to get the other.    Princess continued to look for Dee Dee whenever I opened the back door.   It's hard to know how much of it was a conditioned response (a habit, as it were) and how much was intentional, but it continued for well over a month.   She was sad and confused and it broke my heart.     I shot this video one night of her looking for Dee Dee.

She still does it occasionally.   Not as much, and she tends to catch herself as she 'remembers' that Dee Dee isn't here anymore.   I've tried to explain it to her, but how do you explain death to a dog?   She is very hard of hearing, so I have had to find other ways to communicate with her.   I hold her a lot.   I scratch her neck.   I let her come to work with me on cool days.   She loves that.   We enjoy short walks in the evening, and often go across the street for frozen yogurt.  We snuggle in bed, and have had some sweet moments.    She also loves to go next door to my neighbors.   Rumor has it the treats are better there!    She'll be staying with them for 2-1/2 weeks while I'm in Africa.    And when I get home,  we'll be getting a new addition to our family.   Life goes on - but we will never forget Dee Dee and Elvis.     

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tim's Tribute: My Friend

In Memory of Elvis Bogart Wales
July 2, 2000 - July 29, 2013
Monday evening I said good bye to the person who I originally described as "my dog who is my friend" but became "my friend who happens to be a dog." Elvis was low on energy yesterday and did not have interest/energy to get into the car for a ride this morning. So I called the vet and made an appointment for after work. Having a strong sense that this might be the end, I took him to work with me - he... spent the day resting in the car - - his favorite place. I had lunch with him, visited him several times, and he ate a bit of my banana bread - his favorite.

The vet looked him over, took an x-ray, and found huge cancer inside - likely on the spleen and starting to spread. I was surprised by the cancer, but not by the terminal nature of his condition. I was with him when he was injected and died.

What a guy - - what a friend. What a great 12 years we had together.   Realizing the timelines, I had been concerned that I might lose Elvis and my parents close together. He died two years after them. His death and the death of my parents produced a "good grief" -- a grief that is expected and "should be". It's a grief that in a strange way deepens and is even "life giving" - much as Jesus' parable of the seed that must die in order to give life back.

I had no intention of getting a dog when Elvis and I met. He came into my life and enriched it and together we enriched many others. I now will "do him honor" by waiting for another such enrichment. Likely not another dog since commuting 30 miles to work may preclude that. But maybe something else just as great and just as unexpected. Life is rich - in joy and in grief.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Hardest Decision I Ever Made

Three weeks have now passed since I had to say goodbye to my sweet Dee Dee.  The first 72 hours were the most intense pain I have ever known.   Grief is best described as something that occurs in waves.    You can be fine one moment and then you're suddenly knocked over by a huge, incapacitating wave.   Your mind is on something else .... the distraction, no matter how mundane, a welcome reprieve from the pain .... and then suddenly, a HUGE wave hits you again.   She's gone.   She's not coming back.   Her softy, furry body and that adorable face is now a box of ashes.  And you're knocked to the ground - almost literally.   The day after Dee Dee died was one of huge, incapacitating waves of grief.   I was standing in a furniture store with Tim and suddenly had to run out to the car because I felt a wave about to hit me.   Standing in line at McDonalds, I had to run out to the car before I completely lost it.  And the day after that, as I was driving the 550 mile trip home, I had many melt-downs in the car; a couple of them so intense that I had to pull off the road.   There was a particularly bad one just south of Duluth that lasted close to an hour.   I wondered how long this would go on.    Would I be able to return to work at all that week?  (I was planning to go back on Tuesday.)   Had I fallen into a hole that I would never get out of?   But a strange thing happened.   As I got back on the highway after that episode, I felt different.   I had made a decision.  I decided to not allow myself to replay the scene in the vet clinic again.   It wasn't as quick and easy as I had been told it would be.   The doctor (who ranks a zero in bedside manner) was a jerk.  He couldn't find a vein, and snapped at Dee Dee when she fought him (causing me to snap at him.)  It seemed to take forever.   But, as Tim has pointed out to me repeatedly, it was less than five minutes.   It was the worst five minutes of my life, but it was five minutes.   In Dee Dee's mind, it was no different than a heart worm test - which she'd had (and fought) many times.   And in putting her through those five horrible minutes, I was saving her from months of decline and pain.   I had to stop thinking about it.   And I did.   I just didn't let myself go there anymore. 

The grief has continued, of course, but it has been a healthier grief since then; and not so incapacitating.   It's been the grief of missing her terribly, not of regretting my decision.   The house is so quiet!!   Princess is nearly deaf and just doesn't make any noise.   Dee Dee was my barker.   Who would have thought I'd miss that?!   Dee Dee was always the first one up in the morning.   She'd come bounding up to the side of the bed and poke me - wanting to go outside.   I'd say, "Go tell Princess it's time to get up!" and she'd run to Princess' bed and poke her too.   She was so smart!   She knew how to get the car window down, and would stand on her back legs on the front seat of the car and look out.   The driver of the car next to us would nearly always laugh.   She even knew how to honk the horn!  When we walked by any body of water, she'd pull the leash and look up at me with pleading eyes.   She loved to swim!      She was very tuned into my feelings and if I'd sit down on the floor, she'd be right there .... often rolling over on her back for a tummy rub or nudging me to scratch her ears.   When Mom and Dad died, she would sit by me, her chin on my knee, looking up at me with big, sad eyes.   If I cried, she literally licked my tears.   I miss all of that - and so much more.   She could be such a stinker at times, but oh how she loved me!   When I had to go somewhere without her, my neighbors could hardly get her out the door to go potty.   She was so sad that she nearly shut down.  

But her quality of life was deteriorating quickly.   I had her in physical therapy over the winter (along with chiropractic and acupuncture) and saw only minimal improvement.   Steps were impossible.  Going down them was worse than going up because she'd tumble.   Her back legs were folding under her when she'd walk - especially on a hard/smooth surface floor like tile.   They didn't support her any more, and with a diagnosis of degenerative myopathy,  she wasn't going to get any better.   I considered getting a cart for her, but it didn't seem to be a good solution since she couldn't be left in it unattended, and I leave my dogs alone for 9 hours a day.    Dee Dee's front end was literally pulling her back end along and I'd find spots of blood on the carpet where her back toenails had broken off from being dragged.  

In May, my brother Dan decided to go visit some friends in South Africa this summer and tack on a 15 day overland (camping) safari.   He asked me if I wanted to go along.   After initially saying 'no', I thought about it and realized if I ever wanted to do a trip like that, this was probably my best chance, since Tim did one ten years ago and I sure didn't want to go by myself!   So I reconsidered, quickly grabbed the last spot on that particular trip and put down my deposit.  Before I did that, I talked to my neighbors to see if they could take care of my dogs while I was gone.   They said 'yes' but expressed some concern about Dee Dee.    Of course I told them that I would totally support them in any decisions they needed to make while I was gone, but I hated leaving them with that responsibility - especially when I would be unavailable by phone or Email.   So, when I left for Michigan on June 21, all of that was weighing heavily on me.    On Monday morning Tim and I took the dogs on a short walk on a paved trail on the Pigeon River (Grand Portage).   We were walking slowly and I was trying to keep Dee Dee off the pavement as much as possible.   But about 2/3 of the way to the falls, I looked down and saw that both of her back feet were bleeding badly.   I felt like the worst dog mom on the planet!    Tim carried her the rest of the way and that night I had to face the hard reality that her quality of life was declining rapidly.    I was afraid that I was going to end up putting her down either right before my trip to Africa or right after I got back, and I didn't want either of those.  Nor did I want my neighbors to have to make that decision.  And so, after talking it over with Tim, I decided to give her a  wonderful last day in the Michigan UP (where we've spent many vacations with our dogs) swimming in Lake Superior with Princess and Elvis, and say goodbye on Thursday.  It was the hardest thing I've ever done!     Now, three weeks later, I believe I did the right thing.   The grief, while no longer as incapacitating as it was the first 72 hours, is still pretty intense.   I miss her SO much!    Only those who have loved a dog as a part of the family can understand.

In my next post I will share what this experience has been like for Princess.   We've had many sweet moments these past weeks as we grieve together.