Monday, October 31, 2016

A Wagging Tale: Enter Justina

In early Fall 2006, I started researching doggie day cares and kennels. I had no immediate needs but wanted to know where to take Jasmine if a quick need did arise, as in if Ed’s mother visited.
At such a facility one day, five tiny, fluffy, white puppies scurried past, following a Vet tech. They were like no other small dog or puppy I’d ever seen. “What are they?” I asked breathlessly. Coton de Tulear. The Vet had more or less accidentally acquired them. My heart panged and I thought, “When Jasmine eventually says farewell, that is my next dog.”
Not long before that day, our daughters’ Pug and Shiba Inu cross had moved out. I was enjoying the freedom of having just one dog in our home.
Over the next several months, Jasmine became quite lethargic. Our vet at the time said she was depressed because Frodo and Nakima no longer lived in our home
and she had been with them since she was five weeks old. He recommended getting her a doggie sister or brother. I was disappointed that I could not keep a one-dog household without jeopardizing the health of my Boxer.
By this time I had extensively researched the Coton and fallen totally in love with them. I called the facility where I had first spotted them. No, they had none left – the doctor’s family and friends took them all. They had no idea where I could find one. I called every vet within 50 miles. Not one had a Coton client. I started looking for breeders within 75 miles of home. Zip.
Eventually, we adopted Gypsy from Wayside Waifs. She was about as far from the personality and temperament of a Coton as any dog could be. It took awhile but we finally fell in love with Gypsy. How could you not love a dog who had such great remorse when she broke a house rule, that with her little ears flattened against her, and Beagle eyes as soupy as possible, would not perk up until you said, “I still love you.”
(As it turned out, that doctor did not read Jasmine’s blood work very carefully. She wasn’t depressed, she needed thyroid help.)
Jasmine died suddenly of a heart condition in July 2015, and Gypsy became more attentive and phenomenally well behaved overnight (we think she was afraid at first because her sister was suddenly missing). By that time I had found a Coton breeder within a day’s road trip, but I knew that I could not introduce another dog into our home.  Though Gypsy got along remarkably well with children and other dogs, she still shone best when she was the only dog. Since she was a mutt, I expected her to live at least another seven years past Jasmine. I hoped the breeder I found would  still be raising Cotons when Gypsy left us.
On May 20, 2016, I came home from work to discover a tumor about three fourths of an inch in diameter popped out under the outer side of her left eye. I took her to the vet whose sample determined it was a mast cell tumor. Mast cells are common (and extremely common in Gypsy’s mix of breeds) and, though cancerous, not necessarily fatal - as long as the surgeon is able to remove them with good margins.  This happened a week before we were to head to Colorado for our daughter’s wedding. So we left Gypsy and many instructions with our house sitter. Our house sitter did a remarkable job as the tumor grew. When we returned two weeks later, it was about four times the original size. She also had one on her hip. We scheduled surgery for a few days later.
The bad news that the margins removed were negligible because of the location of both tumors, made us sad and uncertain. The tumor on her hip was stage 2, the one on her face, stage 4. Yes, they would return over time and we would discuss options then. To say we were heartbroken was an understatement.
A few days before we left in July for a writers’ conference in Chicago, a new tumor just touching the bottom eyelid by her nose, popped up. This time we left her with another the house sitter, complete with instructions and a prednisone prescription.
By the time we returned a week later, another on her cheek and one on her esophagus had reared their ugly presence.
If you read my other posts, you know that the progression of this ugly cancer was rapid.
Dear Gypsy left us on September 20, just four months after her initial diagnosis.
Back up here to early July when I told the breeder to put me on the list for a female from the next litter. I expected Gypsy to live until Spring. Soon I learned that I could possibly have a puppy by January 1; I thought Gypsy would be okay with that. We made arrangements to meet the breeder and her dogs on October 15.
On October 2, the breeder asked if when we came up I would like to take home her retired dam named Justi. I assured her I could not afford to buy two dogs right now. Through the kindness of her heart, she believed Justi would have a good life with us and said she would gift her.
On October 15, we met Justi Joy and drove three hours to home with her.
I cannot describe how perfect this ten year old dog is. She is cute, energetic, smart, and quiet. Though she is extremely friendly with all people, she has been totally attached to me since the night we came home.
We have changed dogs’ names in the past. Our Shih Tzu Scruffy, 10 months old when we adopted him was originally Frank. And Calah, our Bichon who was five years old when we adopted her, was originally Dena. However, we decided it wouldn’t be fair to a 10 year old to completely change her name. So we adapted for her with Justina. Within two weeks, she responds quickly to her new name.  She even responds to Justina Girl or ‘stina Girl.
It occurred to me the other day that her birthday of September 2006, was just about the time I first spied the Coton de Tulear. Of course, I know she wasn’t one of those pups but it’s like God confirmed, “Yes, that is your next dog and I have the perfect dog planned for you at the perfect time.”
He surely did. We’ve had dogs in our home everyday since 1987. Thank you, God, for filling the hole in our home with the perfect fluffy white dog.

She was needing a bit of grooming when she arrived! 

This is Justina with her full coat. We will always keep her hair short - she's cooler (but wears coats in the winter, of course!) and SO much easier to maintain by my nightly brushing.

                                             We call her Justina Joy - because she IS a joy!

If you’re looking for an awesome dog for your household, check out this breed atWikipedia

And if you’re looking for a fabulous breeder with healthy and beautiful puppies, contact Carrie

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Wagging Tale: Being Gypsy to the Last Moment

RIP Gypsy Rose Jingles January 10, 2007 to September 20, 2016

When Gypsy breathed her last, a stupor of shock swept over me.  She had been diagnosed only four months earlier and she was, plainly, too young.
Gypsy was more than incredibly intelligent. And she wanted more than to simply please us.  She anticipated our needs and made sure she was always right where we’d be. She knew what room we’d be heading toward to do laundry, to sleep, to pray. And she went ahead of us quickly and waited. She checked out repairmen with a few sniffs and then let them go about their maintenance. She loved to near us – playing, sleeping, keeping watch.
About a month before she died, she had stopped her favorite activities with us that involved a red Kong ball and Frisbee. And she stopped chewing dog bones that she had been nearly addicted to her entire life. I imagine the three massive tumors on her face and neck stole her joy. Though she didn’t run back and forth through the yard anymore as I clapped my hands and shouted, “Go, Gypsy, go!”  she continued to take walks, and follow me around the house.
On a Friday, we had to shorten our walk around the block because she slowed down that much. I knew that was our last walk. We decided then that we would know life was over when she stopped begging when I chopped vegetables in the kitchen and when she no longer let us know her ‘dinner’ time approached.
The next Tuesday when I came home from work she didn’t greet me, which had begun on and off over the last few months. But, highly unusual, she never came out to the living room at all. I found her under my desk, ears flat against her head, a sad look of guilt,  and her tail barely thumped at my entrance to the office. I called her out from under the desk and, to my horror, discovered that the three tumors had grown enormously since morning and were all bleeding.  I guess the guilty look was because she knew she was making a mess wherever she walked. She kept licking her little arms that were covered with blood, taking care of her mess. I hugged her, told her I loved her, and cleaned her up.
Two hours later than her meal time, I offered her ‘dinner.’  She walked away without finishing. I chopped vegetables for own dinner and she didn’t appear by my side. Instead, she laid in a corner of the house that she never had before.
I knew the message from her actions and sad countenance, “I’m sorry, Mom. I’ve been trying real hard to be here for you through all this mess in my body, but I just can’t do it anymore.”
A few hours later we wept goodbye to my dearest and most devoted four-legged friend.

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Wagging Tales: Missing Gypsy – Even Before She Leaves

When I hoped we would be moving to Colorado in 2011, we stripped the household of life’s unnecessaries and packed up two-thirds of what remained. One other thing we did to expand overall house space, was to pack up the dog crates. Jasmine and Gypsy had been in sleeping in wire kennels since their panting presence entered our family. At bedtime, we always gave them a tiny treat after their final “bed-time potty” for the night. They would run into the house, head straight to my office, and sit in their designated kennels, waiting patiently. Once they munched the treat, they chose to stay in the crate, whose door always remained open, or lie by my side of the bed till morning. I had felt badly to pack up the kennels because they were also the dogs’ safe place. But, you know, realtors rule when selling homes.  Jasmine, the laid-back Boxer, adjusted immediately. Gypsy, however, ran in from outside the first night straight to the spot where her kennel had been since she joined us from Wayside Waifs at age 6 months. She sat patiently, as usual, and waited for her treat. Then she curled up, right there. It took about a week before she understood that the new routine was treats by their table in my office, then to sleep on their blankets by me.

It took about three times of seeing me pick up a laundry basket and head to the basement before Gypsy caught onto the routine. In fact, until about six weeks ago when this ugly cancer began to attack her, she continued this way: The minute I pick up a laundry basket, she runs to the basement door ahead of me.  When I open the door, she races ahead and stops in front of the washer for a quick moment to do her beagle nod/point to the washer. She wants to make sure I follow the routine, too. If she’s not nearby when I pick up the basket, I just ask, “Do you want to do laundry with me?” She runs to the basement door. I’ve missed my laundry companion lately.

Jasmine was as laid back as any Boxer until it came to guarding her food from other animals. In the last six months of her life, when the heart condition worsened, she became cranky to the point of mean toward them. We had to lift her bowl away immediately if she didn’t finish or some unsuspecting cat or dog, who happened to be living with us at the time, would be blamed for stealing even if they just walked into the room. Perhaps the reason for this was that Jasmine had always eaten in my office, alone. When she joined us at age five weeks, Nakima, Frodo, and Scruffy all lived here, too. Each doggie had their own dining spot, to make human monitoring of their food easier. Gypsy’s spot became the foyer. When Jasmine died of a heart attack last year, leaving Gypsy to be the only four legged family critter, Gypsy was lost. They had been sleeping side by side and wandering the backyard together for her entire life. In her fear of not knowing where her sister went, she instantly became the model dog (see my post about the transformation here*).  So when I attempted one more change in her life, she said, no.

I decided to feed her in my office, which is where we keep the cans of dry dog food and the little dog serving table (needed when we had multiple dogs, some of whom needed meds from time to time in their bowls). She waited by the office door, as usual, as I prepared her bowl. When I picked it up, she raced to her old spot in the foyer and sat quietly. I called to her. She came to the door, looked at the bowl on the floor, did her beagle head-wag-directing-follow-me nod in the direction of the foyer and ran back. I tried again. Same deal. “No, mom, I eat out here.” She still does.

Now that the left side of her face is swollen beyond recognition and rock hard with bloody tumors, I assume pain is the reason she stopped bringing us her red ball (and pointing to where our red ball is) for our game of hunt, stopped her voracious bone-chewing, and stopped chasing, then chewing, Frisbees. But the prednisone that slows down the rapid growth of these tumors keeps her hungry and no matter what pain, she still wants to eat. Since I’m certain that eating is painful, I bought baby food – mixed veggies and chicken with apples - to mix in with and soften the dog food. But when we set the new recipe on the floor the first time, she jumped back as though it would bite. “What’s that in my bowl?” She inched forward, sniffed, and chowed down the new flavors. Later she found the empty container in my office trash can and licked it cleaner than new.

Over these last few months, I am missing Gypsy in waves. When I sit upstairs to write or pray or read, Jasmine and Gypsy always rested together by my feet. At my desk, Jasmine claimed my feet under the desk, relegating her younger sister to the space beside me. After Jasmine died, Gypsy moved in under the desk. Puppies by my feet is so comforting while I work. But this cancer with the baseball size lymph node on her neck may also be attacking Gypsy’s lungs and she can no longer sleep curled up anywhere – not even by my feet.

Oh Gypsy, you are so fun and funny. You are by far the most intelligent dog I’ve ever known – I’m certain your vocabulary is in the hundreds of words. You are loving and loyal and want nothing more than to make us happy. I dread saying goodbye. I can’t express how I will miss every awesome moment with you.

* I see I haven't transcribed the model dog posts, yet.

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Missing You, Yellow Dog

The girls ran up to the car as I drove into the horse farm. I was there to pick them up from their part time job of feeding and turning out horses and mucking stalls. 

“Mom! Look,” Becca called happily as I opened the car door. That’s when I saw the pretty furry yellow dog. “She was chasing horses through the pasture.”

My instincts kicked in. Oh, no. I know where this is going. My animal loving daughters have surprised us before.

I stepped out of the car to a happy dance by Annie and Becca and rubbed the soft head of the 35 pound dog who wore a makeshift collar and leash.

“Her name is Nakima!”

“She has a name? How do you know?”

“I named her!” smiled almost 16 year old Becca.

Oh, dear. We’re in trouble.

“Can we bring her home? We can look for her owners. But we have to bring her home or she’ll get hurt out here.”

“Oh, Bec, I don’t know.”

“Please,” a sister unison plea is always hard to ignore.

“Okay. But we have to see what Daddy says. And we have to look for her owners.”

We diligently searched for the yellow dog’s owner. And quickly fell in love, grateful (for us) that we never found them. That was in Spring of 1999.

Nakima, about six months old, was a calm dog and well mannered. Little did we know those first couple of weeks that when we met her she was practically starving. As soon as she had good food in her belly everyday, her energy level increased a hundred fold. The dog who fearlessly chased horses in the pasture showed us her stuff. For years, at least once a month, we had to chase that wildly happy pup after she escaped from our fenced yard like a doggie-houdini. She was ecstatic when people visited us; she knew the reality was that they visited us to play with her.

Other than her energy level, and some dog-aggressive behavior, which took many years to control, she was a perfect family pet.  Nakima was a lover of all people of all ages. She especially enjoyed being loved on by little kids, even though she lived with us who had no little ones running around.

And she was entirely devoted to Becca. Never was there a question of who her human momma was, regardless of Becca’s insane work schedule hours or even a move cross country. She bounded into Becca’s arms and snuggled with her as though they had never been separated.

The last few years, Nakima just got old. No longer did she catch frogs or bunnies in the yard or find ways to escape. Long ago she stopped climbing trees to catch squirrels.  She walked more slowly and ate less. But her devotion and sweet demeanor only expanded.

Sadly, Becca had to say goodbye to 16 ½ year old Nakima in June of this year. It still hurts to picture her running around our yard with Frodo who went on ahead of her and Jasmine who recently joined her. But the memory of the sweetest and softest yellow dog that ever lived will remain in each of our hearts forever. And we give thanks to God for the gift of Nakima.

Nakima and her brother Raja relaxing in Becca's back yard

Yellow Dog getting old....

More relaxing done on the deck as she got older. Here with cousin Gypsy.

she LOVED car rides!

Traveling to live with Becca in Myrtle Beach

Helping human grand dad put lights on the tree

chilaxing on Gram Foster's sofa (good thing Gram & Pop never saw this LOL)

She can hardly wait to see Becca again in Myrtle Beach

She loved to read books

And Christmas was her favorite time of year, just like Becca 

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