Monday, November 29, 2010

Twilight days for Zeus

    I am not a person who is usually searches for words.  Today, and the previous 7 days, have been different.  I took Zeus, who would be 8 on St. Patrick's Day, to Sun Valley last Tuesday to see Dr. Acker.  Dr. Acker is our orthopedic vet.  He did the TPLO surgeries on both of Zeus' knees about 4 years ago.  About two weeks ago I noticed a bump on Zeus' left knee.  I hoped something had changed with the plate in his leg and that worst case scenario we would have to have the plate removed.   Perhaps I knew better.
Zeus' healthy right leg
     I drove through a blizzard at 6 am to reach the Sun Valley Animal Center.  Dr. Acker was wonderful, as always. He did a needle probe of the lump and did not like the looks of the cells under the microscope.  He hoped to remove the lump and the plate. As we were leaving I heard the receptionist tell a vet tec they had a dog with a broken back trying to make it from Burley.  
Shania & Zeus camping this summer

    I spent and aimless afternoon with my father.  We ate at Lefties (very local pub ~ if your local you get your own beer glass with your # on it), visited the Goldmine, read books at the library, and sat by fireplaces watching the wind swirl power off roofs.  The blizzard seemed to be raging all around SV, but we had perfect weather.  Around 4 pm the two of us found our way back to the vet office.  Zeus had undergone surgery, but Dr. Acker only biopsied the lump...and the massive tumor that seemed to encompass the top on his left tibia.  The rest of Dr. Acker words tumbled around me like the roar of a rapid.  Non-treatable, can not amputate, very painful cancer, a month to two months of time left.
Zeus' human friends saying their good-byes
     The last 7 days have been a blur of activity with dear friends visiting from CO, Thanksgiving celebrations with friends, family, and of course dogs.  At the oddest moments I find myself drinking in the bittersweet moments of this twilight time with Zeus.  I can talk about the cancer; what I can not express is the sadness of knowing this will be his last winter, the twilight of his life.  The hope I carry is that every foster dog he has welcomed will carry some small part of their encounter with Zeus into their new lives.  In this way his legacy will live.       

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shoveling Snow With Buddha

Kevin "Shoveling" snow with Orson

     Yesterday was the opening of the snowy season here in the Magic Valley.  No other being reminds one of the joy of first snow than dogs.  Their uninhibited exuberance is contagious.  Our dogs love to run trails through snow nose first.  Kevin and I throw snowballs in the air for them to catch and participate in "shoveling" with them.  Winter is here, and baby it is cold outside!
Happy dog!

Snow stalking

Watching for snowballs

     One of my favorite "winter" poems in by Billy Collins (one of my favorite modern poets).  
"Shoveling Snow With Buddha" excerpt

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

     Orson's skin condition cleared up last week after just a few days on antibiotics.  He is back to being a happy malamute!  We do not have another weigh-in until next Tuesday,  but Orson's energy level and mobility are steadily improving, so we are assuming he is continuing to drop weight.  One of the ways we are helping Orson lose weight and still receive all his nutrients is by feeding him a raw diet. 
Yum! Chicken.

    We are using Carina McDonald's "Raw Dog Food" handbook and have several mentors to which we can ask specific questions.  One of the reasons for this decision was the knowledge that all kibble contains binding agents that are hard to digest and are high glycemic index foods, such as corn and brewers rice.  Orson loves the raw food and even eats his veggie mix.
    Orson is still doing well with our cat, Amadeus.   He likes to smell Amadeus, which 'Deus hates, but Orson is calm and gentle with him.  Orson was even calm when 'Deus Tasmanian deviled his face ('Deus does not have claws).   At this juncture I do think Orson would do just fine with cats that are dog-savvy.  He and Miley are still great buddies and a few days ago Orson tried to play with Savina our ACD.  I have to give Orson props for trying, Savina regularly acts like a Tasmanian devil with all of our dogs.  True to form, she did and rejected his overtures.  Orson seemed a little shocked that our pint-size girl was so spastic, but who knows maybe next time.
Sleepy pups after playing and dinner

   On the MMR front, two dogs from UT Sammie and Strider were able to find foster homes with new volunteers Saturday. Both homes are fostering with the hope of adoption!  A third malamute found his second chance with one of our board members.  Great news for these Thanksgiving malamutes.  Every person that volunteers to open their home to a foster dog, gives that dog more time.  More time = a life saved. 
    One last dog piece, Zeus has an orthopedic appointment Tuesday with Dr. Acker in SV at the Sun Valley Animal Center:  We think something new has developed with his left knee and hip.  Dr. Acker is the leading ortho surgeon for the Pacific NW and we are lucky he lives so close!  Paws crossed Zeus does not have to have more surgery. 
Orson with one of his favorite people, my mom.

Dog pile the human grandma!!

   Happy Thanksgiving week and break!! Oh, that reminds me, I was so exhausted last Friday I made some funny mistakes.  In the first I was trying to write an email to all my Moonsong cronies about Blue Buffalo foods and made my own flavor, "Brainless."  Yes you should not feed your dog brains, "Brainless" is good.  Later that day I repeatedly sent texts to another MMR board member meaning to send them to a friend.  I think I was incoherent.  Good thing I am on break from ISU!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Sudzy Mutt

     The last 24 hours were rather hectic for Orson.   Thursday evening I was brushing Orson and found a dime size scab on his leg.  I was not too concerned about it, but it did smell “funky.”  Fast-forward to Friday afternoon.  I arrived home from attending university classes around 3.  Much to my surprise, the area around Orson’s nose looked just like the patch of skin from the night before.  Upon examination, I found several other nickel size spots on his legs, too.  Magic Valley Veterinary Hospital worked us into their schedule, so off we went.  As we were waiting all I could envision was a full-body skin infection and a hairless malamute.  Not a great prospect for an overweight dog. 
      Dr. L said we caught it early enough and that oral antibiotics and a medicated bath would clear everything up quickly.  And, Miley is supposed to leave face-bathing to the humans for a few days.  That will be our biggest challenge; Miley has a licking “problem”….she licks the cat, other dogs, us, the couch, the wall…she is an OCD licker.  Actually last week she licked all the hair off Zeus’ left eye.  Eyelashes, fur, and whiskers are all gone.  Anyone have any suggestions for a lickoholic anonymous group?   
     We did receive some really great news while we were at the vet’s office.  Orson had another weigh in and he is down to 171.7!! He is almost at his first milestone.  Thyroid medication, controlled diet and exercise are really helping Orson be the “biggest loser pup.”  Several of the vet techs commented that since they last saw Orson, 2 weeks ago, that his mobility and strength had visibly increased.   

     Kevin and I loaded Orson into the car this morning and headed over to The Sudzy Mutt on Addison.  Orson loves car rides and spent his time hanging his nose out the cracked window.  The facility is super clean, the staff friendly and helpful, and the equipment top notch.   Their prices are very competitive, too.  It is a self-service bathing center that utilizes rubber mats and ramps for the safety and comfort of the dogs.   

     Orson HATES water, a lot.  It took both Kevin and I to “contain” our malamute when the water was running.  He howled the entire time the water was on, even if it was just running and not touching him.  I think my ears are still ringing.  On the upside, he was just fine with the under coat blower.  Odd, usually dogs hate the blower and are fine with water…or just hate both.  Orson looks very handsome right now!  His colors are very distinct and he has that fuzzy ball look groomed dogs have.  I think he may ignore us for the rest of the day for putting him through the indignity of a bath.

     One last confession.  All the great pictures are ones taken by Kevin.  Mine are all dark or fuzzy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Journey

This is a reposting with an unknown author.  Someone passed it along through the AMAL group, and I like parts of it so I though I would share:
Orson and Zeus
When you bring a pet into your life, you begin a journey. A journey that will bring you more love and devotion than you have ever known, yet will also test your strength and courage. If you allow, the journey will teach you many things, about life, about yourself, and most of all, about love. You will come away changed forever, for one soul cannot touch another without leaving its mark.

Along the way, you will learn much about savoring life's simple pleasures -- jumping in leaves, snoozing in the sun, the joys of puddles, and even the satisfaction of a good scratch behind the ears. If you spend much time outside, you will be taught how to truly experience every element, for no rock, leaf, or log will go unexamined, no rustling bush will be overlooked, and even the very air will be inhaled, pondered, and noted as being full of valuable information.

Your pace may be slower, except when heading home to the food dish, but you will become a better naturalist, having been taught by an expert in the field. Too many times we hike on automatic pilot, our goal being to complete the trail rather than enjoy the journey. We miss the details: the colorful mushrooms on the rotting log, the honeycomb in the old maple snag, the hawk feather caught on a twig. 

Once we walk as a dog does, we discover a whole new world. We stop; we browse the landscape, we kick over leaves, peek in tree holes, look up, down, all around. And we learn what any dog knows that nature has created a marvelously complex world that is full of surprises, that each cycle of the seasons bring ever changing wonders, each day an essence all its own. 
Even from indoors you will find yourself more attuned to the world around you. You will find yourself watching: summer insects collecting on a screen; how bizarre they are; how many kinds there are or noting the flick and flash of fireflies through the dark. You will stop to observe the swirling dance of windblown leaves, or sniff the air after a rain. It does not matter that there is no objective in this; the point is in the doing, in not letting life's most important details slip by.

You will find yourself doing silly things that your pet-less friends might not understand: spending thirty minutes in the grocery aisle looking for the cat food brand your feline must have, buying dog birthday treats, or driving around the block an extra time because your pet enjoys the ride. You will roll in the snow, wrestle with chewy toys, bounce little rubber balls till your eyes cross, and even run around the house trailing your bathrobe tie with a cat in hot pursuit, all in the name of love.

Your house will become muddier and hairier. You will wear less dark clothing and buy more lint rollers. You may find dog biscuits in your pocket or purse, and feel the need to explain that an old plastic shopping bag adorns your living room rug because your cat loves the crinkly sound. You will learn the true measure of love. The steadfast, undying kind that says, "It doesn't matter where we are or what we do, or how life treats us as long as we are together."

Respect this always. It is the most precious gift any living soul can give another. You will not find it often among the human race. And you will learn humility. The look in my dog's eyes often made me feel ashamed. Such joy and love at my presence. She saw not some flawed human who could be cross and stubborn, moody or rude, but only her wonderful companion. Or maybe she saw those things and dismissed them as mere human foibles, not worth considering, and so chose to love me anyway.
If you pay attention and learn well, when the journey is done, you will be not just a better person, but the person your pet always knew you to be. The one they were proud to call beloved friend.
I must caution you that this journey is not without pain. Like all paths of true love, the pain is part of loving. For as surely as the sun sets, one day your dear animal companion will follow a trail you cannot yet go down. And you will have to find the strength and love to let them go. 
A pet's time on earth is far too short, especially for those that love them. We borrow them, really, just for a while, and during these brief years they are generous enough to give us all their love, every inch of their spirit and heart, until one day there is nothing left. The cat that only yesterday was a kitten is all too soon old and frail and sleeping in the sun. The young pup of boundless energy now wakes up stiff and lame, the muzzle gone to gray.
Deep down we somehow always knew that this journey would end. We knew that if we gave our hearts they would be broken. But give them we must for it is all they ask in return. When the time comes, and the road curves ahead to a place we cannot see, we give one final gift and let them run on ahead, young and whole once more. "God speed, good friend," we say, until our journey comes full circle and our paths cross again.

Favorite games and improvements

My Human is home!
    Orson had his weigh-in this Tuesday.  I was really nervous that he would not have lost weight, but he has!  4 pounds from a week and half ago and 6 pounds total from his first weigh-in at the shelter.  I am very happy with this progress and so is the vet.  Slow and steady at first is ideal.  Orson has been on his thyroid meds a little over a week now, too and we are noticing big changes.  He is much more alert and interested in the house activities.  He is now self motivated to lumber out after our other dogs and explore the yard.  At first, he would just watch the others or sleep right through "Squirrel Alert" and "Mailman Invasion" activities. 
     In fact he and Miley, our female lab, are becoming great buddies. He tries to play with her and now allows Miley to groom his face (yuck).  He has initiated play with both Kevin and I several times, too.  Everyday he is reminding more, and more of an older version of Mowgli.  He is remembering that he is a Malamute and a dog!  Life is Good!!  
Miley & Orson grooming time

     Thanksgiving break is just a week away~ Thank doG.  Really, I woke up Monday night dreaming about registration and VERBS.  Ug, for all that is holy, what is wrong with me?  Oh, yea I am an English major.   Who obviously needs a break from direct objects.  I miss my poetry days. Great news for break:  Some of our best friends will be visiting with their two awesome adopted dogs.  We can not wait to fill their bags and car with trinkets.  We play a great game called trinket warfare.  The object is to find the cheapest, ugliest trinket and hid it in someone's house, car, or bag.  It should be placed in a location that will cause them to shriek when they first discover the offending item.  For example, this summer we found a 3D cat picture (huge) and left it in the upstairs window of a friends house.  It was horrific!  You could only see it from the street.  I have a feeling it may appear again some day at our house or our friends with the GSD.   
     I actually have a fun research paper on language and animals.  It should be interesting; one camp of language people believe that only humans have language and animals basic communication systems.  The other camp thinks that certain species do have languages and even cultures.  I will be focusing on whales, primates, and...dogs! 

     Here is a fun game Orson likes to play, hide behind the food bins: 
Now you see me...
Now you don't...
Dang!  You caught me peeking!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Orson and an Ode to an Onion...

     It was with great difficulty that we decided on a new name this week.  As I mentioned before, we tried several different options.  We almost settled on Baloo, but somehow it just did not fit.  Baloo is a Bear and guide in the Jungle Book.  "Orson" is Latin for Bear and captures the quirky, sweet gentleman that Koda embodies.  Also, Orson Wells narrated the famous War of the Worlds and Orson Scott Card has a wonderful book series. One of my favorite quotes from O. Card:  "Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space." Yes, I am a literature junkie.  Several of the titles here are allusions to works I love.  SO Koda is now Orson or KodaOrson as Kevin is calling him.

     Dr. L received the Lab reports back Monday, not surprisingly Orson is Hypothyroid.  We started meds yesterday, which are very inexpensive (around $10-15 per month).  He is on 1.0 mg BID of the generic soloxine. The medication will help with Orson's weight loss, which is great news!    Weigh in is next Tuesday, keep your fingers crossed!!!!
Sweet Mayans or Walla -Wallas?
     Orson is such a soulful malamute. Today he spent some time absorbing sunshine and contemplating onions.  He adores the garden and rambles through plants inhaling the vibrant odors.   I think he would enjoy Pablo Neruda's Ode to an Onion:
You make us cry without hurting us.
I have praised everything that exists,
but to me, onion, you are
more beautiful than a bird
of dazzling feathers,
heavenly globe, platinum goblet,
unmoving dance
of the snowy anemone
     He is such a handsome dog; a woman in my history course saw his picture and gushed about how striking he was.  Orson is simple a love sponge.  He has only met my mother once, but Woo-wooed at her today like she was his favorite person. 
Sun salutation...well almost
     On other "dog" fronts, we received an update on a previous foster, Bella, who is doing very well in her new home.  It is so joyous to know fosters have found their forever homes with great people.  It has been crazy!  A friend & fellow volunteer stopped in yesterday to meet Orson.  I am no longer shocked by his size, but she was!  I forget how huge he is!  Hopefully not for too much longer, though.
     Orson enjoys the girls' company best, and tolerates Zeus.  I am anxious to see how this dynamic will change as gains energy.  We had a friends GSD over last night and Orson was not impressed.  I think it was a combination of another male dog and much higher, more intense energy level of the GSD.  Based on this new observation, I think Orson will need a home with relaxed buddies.  My cat, Amadeus is ignoring Orson for the most part.  There are still no signs of "ohh, looks fuzzy kitty treat!" from Orson, but that may change, too.