a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: March 2003

Monday, March 31, 2003

Life Goes On

At Madera two weeks ago, Tika got every one of her contacts all weekend. At the NADAC the next weekend, she was really good on Saturday & then started flying off on Sunday. This weekend, she couldn't get past the 1st contact all weekend without flying off. I started resorting to taking her off the field on Sunday, after redoing all day Saturday. She did OK in weavers--ran past one set and then took an off-course into a tunnel. Jumpers we had a knocked bar one day and a tunnel suck the next. Tunnelers I pulled her into the wrong end of a tunnel on Saturday and she did great on Sunday. So she got 1 Q all weekend out of 12 runs.

Jake was a good boy and got 9 out of 12 Qs--one miss was a fairly easy gamble that was my fault (to make up for it, the next day he got a really tough one that fewer than 1 in 5 dogs got). One flyoff on a dogwalk, which is HIS fault by now. One missed jump in a jumpers course, again mostly my fault. Despite appearances, we didn't seem to be clicking all weekend. He was taking lots of wide slow turns and starting to miss obstacles (or almost miss them). Not sure what was up with that.

Today Tika's walking on a leash was almost back to square one. Deep sigh.

Friday, March 28, 2003

The Final FAQs

I have just updated Remington's Cancer FAQ with the last questions I can answer, things that people asked me before or after or that I asked before or after.

Tika Scared of Jake

Now this is weird. Yesterday and today (and maybe the day before?) Tika has been acting frightened of Jake half the time. I haven't seen anything on Jake's part that would warrant this, although of course they have been alone in the house together occasionally.

Last couple of days, when Jake has started to sniff her underparts, she reacted as if he had threatened her--first time she kind of snarled and spun away off the bed with her tail down (too short to go between her legs) and wouldn't come back onto the bed; the second time I was just skritching her ears and Jake came over, Mr. Casual, and started to sniff, and she skittered away so abruptly it was almost as if he'd bitten her--which he didn't.

Now here in the office, I offered to let her half onto my lap to give me a hug. She complied, but when Jake ambled over, she again tucked tail and ears and tried to hide on the far side of my chair. Wouldn't come back to snuggle with me at all, even after I got Jake to lie down (where he lay quietly, obsessively licking his feet). Wouldn't walk by Jake--tried to hide behind another chair when I tried to call her over. This is so odd. She has never seemed intimidated by either dog before, even when Rem was grouchy and landed on her for various transgressions.

I think she was still crashing into him with her ball outside this morning as per SOP, but now I'm not so sure about that.

I'm thinking it might be some kind of delayed reaction to Remington being gone, but I can't think why or how or what.

She has also been licking between the two outer toes on her right foot a lot since Wednesday. I can't find anything there, no cuts or irritation or anything that feels swollen or embedded. Her toenails were pretty long, so I trimmed them back. Hard to tell if she stubbed a toe or something.

Toenails: Explain to me how a dog can keep her dew claws worn down to a stub but the middle front toenails grow unimpeded.

Walking--It Could Happen!

Again today we got all the way to the end of the street with only a couple of turn/pops. Needed a few more just near the end with the dogs in the back yard. Needed several when we went around that corner; not sure what that's so exciting. Needed a few off and on after that. Only other rough spots were where there was a dog lying in someone's front yard as we walked by--that took a *long* time and actually required some corrections when she threw herself at the end of the leash. Then there was a dog walking on the other side of the street, which also took some attention as she tried running in circles or towards the street, and one correction when she started her shriek/barking.

But, man, what a difference. Hope this lasts.

This weekend it's NADAC up at Cal State Hayward. Supposed to be pretty warm. Already warm this morning and Tika was dashing into the shade in the back yard every time after I tossed her Tika Toy and she retrieved it. Still ran full out after it each time, but I wonder how she'll do on warmer days.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Pulling on the Leash

The thing about Tika that has stressed me out the longest and the most frequently is pulling on the leash. I tried weeks and weeks and weeks of working her alone, then with other dogs, with corrections or with goodies and a clicker, and never seemed to make progress. I taught Rem to pay attention/not pull with the turn-and-pop method--that is, as soon as the dog pulls (or isn't paying attention, or walks past you--pick a behavior and stick with it consistently), I turn on my heel and walk in the opposite direction, so the leash kind of "pops" the dog from the direction she was going. It took a long while--I don't remember how long, any more--but it did work.

But I couldn't do that with Rem, Jake, and Tika all at once. I tried it on my own with Tika for a while, but I was always trying to finish up to get the other dogs so I could do a *real* walk, and maybe I just didn't walk enough distance with her, or something. With all 3 dogs, I couldn't turn and pop without getting somebody tangled up. Also, Rem got the most frustrated of all of them whenever I stopped and realigned her (constantly--the method we learned in class) or turned and popped. So, with Remington gone, I decided that this was enough, Tika was going to learn to walk on a leash. Immediately I went into turn-and-pop mode while walking her and Jake. Jake gets a little confused-looking, because my turns appear arbitrary to him because they're not tied in to *his* behavior, but he seems to manage muchh better than Rem did. So it has been almost 3 weeks since Rem died, and in our 20-minute walks we've seldom gotten further than the end of the court or 2 houses beyond that in either direction.

Late last week (or early this week?), we managed to go all the way down the block (with lots of turns and pops, but slightly longer times between them) until we drew near the house at the end where there's a barking dog in the back yard, and we just couldn't manage to walk in that direction without Tika pulling. Yesterday we actually got past that house to the end of the street--still with turns and pops all along, but many fewer. Today--jeez--she didn't pull going out the front door, OR down the driveway, OR past the house to the end of the court, OR even around the corner. We had to do maybe half a dozen turn-pops before we got to the end of the street, but that was like an entire block with her not pulling on the leash! It was a miracle! And then--we actually walked all the way around the block today! There were about 2 places where we got stuck--turn/pop and then she'd pull again, so we were in a seemingly infinite loop--I think they were both near houses with dogs barking in the back yard--but then she mostly walked without pulling the entire last block and half home again. Yow. When we got to our court, we had to do a few more turn/pops, but not nearly as many as we've always done--and only ONCE going up the driveway to the back gate! It's been a *year*, dag nab it, that I've been trying to get her up the driveway without pulling constantly.

We'll see if this holds tomorrow--

And we're doing it with the gentle leader, still. So as soon as she's doing pretty consistently there, we'll go back to the buckle collar and see what happens. There's hope after all--


Memories everywhere. Took Tika in to our regular vet for her shots, and she put her paws up on the receptionist's counter just like Remington always used to do, because he knew there were nice people back there who gave him goodies. And our holiday picture was posted on their photo board, all 3 of my dogs. It's still hard, every time I buckle Jake into his seatbelt and there's an empty seat next to him. Took his NADAC, USDAA, and CPE registration cards out of my wallet so I wouldn't see them every time I enter an agility trial, and that felt like ripping a piece out of my life.

It really does get easier every day not to think about it, because thinking about it hurts. I find that I usually can talk about him--but talking about *losing* him or the fact that he *isn't* here is painful.

I've gotten lots of cards and email from his assorted friends, and that helps. And Tika and Jake have been pretty good dogs the last couple of weeks, which also helps.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

NADAC Weekend

Saturday was a good day for us at the NADAC fund-raising trial in Elk Grove. Jake finished his O-NATCH, which is a double NADAC agility championship. Tika finished all three regular novice titles: Standard (NAC), Jumpers (NJC), and Gamblers (NGC). Each dog had 6 runs: 2 standard, gamblers, jumpers, tunnelers, weavers. Both qualified in 5 out of 6, and both placed every time (Jake not unexpected because there were only about 1-6 dogs in his class; Tika was competing against 12-24, though).

Tika's Runs: In her first standard run of the day, she flew off the aframe and I made her come back and redo the whole thing. She hit her contact on the teeter but didn't stick it, and I made her come back and redo the whole thing. She stuck the dogwalk contact nicely, and in the second round she stuck them all and I didn't have any handling bobbles worth mentioning and she qualified and took 1st.

Her start-line stay was wonderful all weekend.

Her contacts were on-and-off-again. In gamblers, she flew off the dogwalk the first time; I made her come back to the contact point and "touch"; she stuck it and 2 teeters the rest of the opening. Got the gamble nicely, which was just jumps and tunnels.

Can't make weaves when she's out ahead of me and moving quickly-- in gmbl opening, she flew past them the first time, hit the entry the 2nd time but was moving so fast she bounced off the 2nd pole and skipped a couple. In her 2 standard runs on Sunday, she blew past the weaves both times. When ahead of her going to the weaves, she does great--witness her weavers run, consisting of a bunch of tunnels and 4 (?) different sets of weave poles, all of which she got beautifully, and none of which she was out ahead of me for.

She blasted through her tunnelers run in what I thought was about nearly flawless as a dog could get, although it's possible she veered slightly away from one tunnel before going in and maybe slowed down a wee itty bitty bit when I called her from one tunnel to another. There were actually 2 dogs out of *all* dogs entered, all levels all heights, faster than her--one by less than a tenth of a second, and one by a full second, but I know that dog has been doing agility for a while because I've seen him for quite a while. Still, Tika was pretty amazing.

Also makes it extremely difficult to handle her on anything other than a wide-open course. We're nowhere near understanding each other on sharper turns, so it feels like I'm teetering on the edge of a chaotic run at all times--which sometimes they descend into.

Yards Per Second: Tika was 3 seconds faster than Jake on the tunnelers course, and he was moving fairly well, although I wouldn't say he was at superjake speed. Tika covered the course at a speed of 6.36 yards per second. Think about it! Jake's speed was 5.34 yps, which is still respectable. Jake's fastest yps ever was 6.12 on a jumpers course (which is *dang* fine!), but nearest after that was 5.69 (which is also pretty fine--for comparison, looks like most of his runs where he's over 5.25 are good for a 1st place--).

For a comparison on how different obstacles affect YPS--the weavers course was exactly the same as tunnelers except that 4 tunnels were replaced by sets of 6 or 12 weave poles. Tika did go past one tunnel and I had to turn her and get her back in, so we probably lost 2-3 seconds, but she blazed through that thing at 4.06 yps--only dog faster than Tika was 3 seconds faster (no tunnel bobble--makes their average 4.58 yps), so that's a fine speed on a weavers course. Jake, whose weaves are OK but never does them superfast in competition for some reason, had no bobbles but was still 3 seconds slower than Tika, averaging 3.63 yps, which was decent but not blazing.

Jake: Still--he's doing pretty good for an 11-and-a-half-yr-old dog.

He's getting to be pretty reliable, especially since now, this weekend at least, he's actually starting to stop on contacts with 2 on, 2 off, after struggling to retrain for a while. We divided errors--he popped a contact once & missed 2 "outs" although one of them I could have perhaps handled more strongly if I hadn't thought it was easy for him, and I forgot where I was once. That doesn't happen too often any more, either.

He seems to run hot and cold on "out"--2 runs this weekend where I depended on his strong "out", he came in towards me. Guess I need to keep practicing it or he loses it. Missed a fairly easy gamble that way, missed a dogwalk/tunnel discrimination that way. We've been practicing "outs" in the yard today, and sure enough, he's acting like he's never done them before. Sheesh. So much for my Jedi gambling master who'll actually swerve away from me on an "out."

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

USDAA Weekend

Last weekend we were in Madera for a USDAA trial. Was a fairly small trial; no extras at all, so Jake had only 5 runs all weekend and Tika only 6. Jake was a very good boy, qualified 4 out of 5 and was just a smidgen away from Qing on the gamble, too, but I mishandled it. Took 1st in 2 of his runs, too, in his Performance (used to be Veterans) division and was fast enough that he'd have placed even among the 30-or-so 22" dogs in the Championship division.

I was pleased with Tika's performance most of the weekend. I really wanted to make sure she was getting her contacts, and she did all weekend. The other issue has been staying at the start line, which she also did all weekend. And except for the gamble, where she stopped *next* to the final table to sniff at gopher holes, she never dropped her attention from me or the agility ring. We did very well in our standard runs--didn't Q in the first one because she knocked the first 2 bars, but we had ended up playing Start-Line Chicken and I think we started her off balance. 2nd one she didn't get up on the table right away, and then got up partway through, altogether probably wasting close to 10 seconds--but she was fast enough and accurate enough that we Qed and took 1st, since we were one of only a handful of novice dogs who *did* Q on that course.

I was particularly gleeful to discover that the 2nd run contained a difficult (for novice) obstacle sequence that was *exactly* the sequence we've been working on lately in the yard: jump, jump, into a U-shaped tunnel, come out the left side and immediately into the weaves. It took us a while to get her into the weaves correctly in the yard, but she's been nailing it for at least a week. Of course, you don't know how the dog will behave in real competition, but she nailed that weave entry perfectly! That entry was probably what kept more dogs from qualifying than anything else on the course.

She was superb in snooker, did everything I asked with no bobbles on either of our parts except that she knocked a bar in #5 on the closing--had 11 seconds left when we were done! She's a fast little gal. Did fairly well in gamblers, although missed one weave entry and I handled a cross badly and she leaped up at me and barked and grabbed. If it wasn't for sniffing next to the table--Argh. She and her partner ran beautifully in pairs for another 1st place. Our jumpers course was a much more technical one than we've encountered before; I thought it would be difficult, and it was. We were all over the place, and she wasn't even carrying out by the end, just kept coming back in to me & leaping, barking, grabbing. We really really need work on tight handling; the wide open courses we can do except for the occasional knocked bar.

My friends presented me with a book about Dog Heaven, signed by a number of people with little notes about Remington. I thought I could read it without crying. I couldn't. But it's a wonderful thing to have.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Interesting Things

You have to understand that I'm not a superstitious or religious person. I'm not even convinced there's any kind of afterlife, which is another thing that makes it so hard for Remington to go--he wasn't actually going; he was stopping. Maybe I'm grasping at straws now--read on.

Remington was not into licking. Even if you had food on your hands, he thought licking was a bad idea. I tried to teach him to lick/kiss on command, but I had to just about bury my hand or face in peanut butter to get his tongue out. But he *did* like to smell people's breath. That was a nearly daily ritual; at some point, he'd position his nose an inch or two from my face and hold it there--you could see his nose twitching, smelling, looking for some kind of status imperceptible to me--then, satisfied, he'd move away and go about his business.

Tika is a licking dog. She licks constantly. It drives me nuts. Put a hand or face near her, and it's lick lick lick. She even smells with contact--if she's sniffing your leg, there's an annoying little tickle all up and down and around where her nose is just touching the surface. No subtlety at all.

The day Remington died, I was on the floor, petting and scritching both Tika and Jake and trying not to cry while I was doing so. Tika sat down in front of me, lifted her nose--stopped an inch or two away from my face, and sniffed, just her nose twitching, checking my breath; then, having gotten her status, she looked away again. So perfectly Remington-like. She had never done that before and she hasn't done it since.

Then there's Jake. Jake sleeps while we travel, unlike Remington, who would sit up the entire trip and look for Cows. Rem's head would snap to one direction or another if he thought there might be Cows there. I could point out one side or the other and say, "Look, Cows over there!" and he'd turn his head to look where I was pointing. His head moved slowly as we drove by the Cows so that he could keep his gaze fixed on them. Once in a while, when Rem got very excited about some particular Cow situation, Jake would sit up, peer out the windows (in what I always thought looked like a nearsighted squint), and then lie down again and return to slumber.

This weekend, we were driving back from the central valley over Pacheco Pass. As we approached the valley, we passed a couple of aggregates of Cows, and I hurt all over at not having anyone to point out the cows to. Suddenly, moments later, Jake sat up, looked out one window, then the other, and--seeing Cows--watched them intently, his head moving slowly to follow them as we drove by. He sat up for the rest of the drive through the rural valley, looking out one window, then the other, following Cows with his gaze whenever we passed some. Once, I saw that he was looking opposite to where another Cow bunch were grazing, so I pointed and said, "Look, Cows over there!" and he turned to look.

I don't know what it means. The scientific part of me says that it's all coincidence or possibly a dozen other things. But both of these episodes were as comforting to me as they were heartbreaking, which is a difficult combination of emotions to get my grasp around.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Am I Crazy, Or What?

It's pouring rain. It's also about time to get in my car and drive out to the hotel in the central valley (Madera) so I'll be ready to do agility at the crack'o'dawn tomorrow. Probably also in the pouring rain.

I've been feeling this week like I don't really care about agility. Another sign of my grief and depression. So it's not like I'm *not* looking forward to this weekend--I'm just not looking forward to it. I'm apathetic. But it's better to go than to stay. I did have a good time last Sunday when I managed to not be thinking about Rem several times during the day.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

The Other Dogs React

I see more reaction to Rem's absence from Jake than from Tika.

Rem used to lie in my office, either on his bed or behind my chair, while Jake had three favorite spots--under the table if I was in the kitchen, or in his chair or sometimes at my feet when I was at my desk. Several times a day I have noticed Jake trotting down into my office, going around the corner of my desk, looking around as if searching for something. On Monday I noticed him once with his head up over the edge of Rem's bed (which is elevated), sniffing the air back and forth. Never noticed him do that before. And then certainly the last 2 days--not sure about Monday--he has spent a lot of time lying on the floor near Rem's bed. Not looking at it--in fact, facing away--not looking depressed, just licking his paws or holding his squeaky or whatever he might usually do while lying somewhere. But I don't think he ever lay there before.

Wed. morning I changed the cover on Rem's bed so that the one Rem had last slept on was no longer there. Wed. evening, Jake got up on the bed and started the nesting thing, where he digs and pushes and grunts and growls at the bedding, which I have seen him do maybe a couple of times on Rem's bed in the whole time we've been in this house (19 months). But he didn't lie down--hopped off again and went on his way.

I don't think he's been in his own chair at all this week, which is where he usually nests enthusiastically and then settles in. He's mostly been right at my feet under the desk or under the table when he's not near Rem's bed.

The action that hit me the hardest was last night at agility class. I've almost always had Rem's and Jake's classes one right after the other, sometimes one first, sometimes the other. Usually the first dog doesn't want to get back in the car because he knows I'm going to get the other dog out to do agility. Last night, after Jake was done, I walked him back to the car, and he didn't want to get in as usual, even though there had been no Rem driving up with us. When he did get in, he stuck his head way out, moving his nose back and forth and up and down just an inch or two, scenting the air, looking towards Rem's seat. Then he stuck his head between the two front seats, and checked both seats. Looked in the back of the car. Looked everywhere again. Not frantically, just looking, mostly not moving his feet, just his head and more his nose. Stood there, air scenting, nose up and back and forth and all around, before he finally turned back towards me. Jeez.

My general impression is that he's been snugglier and hanging tighter to me.

Tika I think is also hanging closer. For example, usually she goes upstairs and rests on my nice down comforter whenever I'm not doing anything interesting, or in good weather lies on the deck to scout the yard. Although the last few days have been nice, she has mostly been hanging in the house. Right now she's been lying on the floor behind my chair--where Remington often used to lie. Did that yesterday, too.

In bed, Jake's place is on the side directly to my left, Rem's was at the left foot of the bed, Tika's right next to my feet on the right. Made it crowded for both her and me. I'm hoping to move her over to where Rem slept, but I don't want to push it. Monday morning and again this morning, while my brain was still in the stage of deciding whether to wake up, she has stepped across me, turned and turned and turned--not quite all the way over to where Rem slept--and then at the last minute stepped back to her usual spot to lie down. Never has done that before; stayed away from the boys' sleeping spots.

The usual wake-up ritual has her stretch out up my right side so I can rub her with my right hand while skritching Jake with my left. Twice in the last 3 days she has stepped across me and stretched out on Jake's side, which she's also never done before. I've moved her back so she's not between us.

I haven't so far seen any signs of changes in who's in charge or how they interact with each other, although I wonder whether Tika's actions aren't showing signs of taking over Rem's spots--

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Jake and Tika do NADAC

I keep trying to write about Remington but I can't do it here yet.

But Tika and Jake and I went to the 2nd day of the Elk Grove NADAC agility trial Sunday because staying home the day before with all of the reminders was tearing me apart. After we got through all of the "sorry"s, I was able to spend most of the day concentrating on my 2 beasts and their runs.

Jake had a great day. He qualified in 5 out of 5 runs, which is a pretty good percentage. He's now entered in Veterans, so he's not competing against as many dogs, and he's jumping a mere 12" instead of the 20" he jumped all the way through earning his NATCH. Still, I managed to get him into SuperJake mode for at least 2 of the runs, and he was merely fast in the others; we were in synch; didn't make stupid handler errors. It was a nice time. He took 2 firsts, a second, and a third--didn't stay long enough to see whether he placed in the last event. And his times and scores were good enough that he'd have placed in the regular classes, as well. So I'm pretty pleased with that.

I especially wanted to be there because NADAC now allows you (doesn't kick you out or yell at you) to do things that would be considered training in the ring in other organizations, and since she'd been popping contacts 2 weeks ago at the trial, I wanted to give it a try here. Sure enough, she did it here, too.

First run, she didn't stay at the start line. I brought her back, made her take the position again, and I didn't have problems with that the rest of the day. First run, she flew off the Aframe and went to check a corner of the ring, but came back to me. I had her do that contact again, and she stuck it, then stuck the teeter and dogwalk also. I thought we had it licked.

But the second round, she popped the dogwalk; made her do it again. Stuck the teeter, flew off the Aframe; made her do it again.

In gamblers, I picked a course that would've been really nice if she had stuck her contacts, but she popped the Aframe once, I made her do it again, then she popped the DW twice and stuck the third time. Again stuck the teeter OK.

Jumpers doesn't have contacts in it--but I said "go" when it should've been "come" on a curving row of jumps.

Last run of the day was touch-n-go, which is all tunnels and contacts. She popped the first Aframe and when I stopped, she tootled out into the field before finally coming back my way. I took her off.

Our instructor says we did exactly the right thing for where she is at the moment.

But I also think she has tunnel suck--I think I remember at least 4 occasions where she blasted into a tunnel ahead of her when that wasn't what I wanted her to do. I'll have to think about this. She *does* love tunnels.

In class today, she went chasing off after squirrels or memories of squirrels or whatever 3 or 4 times and wouldn't come back. Argh. It's like we're right back at the beginning again. I haven't really had her out at the gopher/squirrel park since Rem got worse in January, I think, because I didn't want to have to monitor him and her, too. So I guess I need to do more of that. Although we *did* practice *constantly* while we were up in Oregon, and she came over & over for a reward, except on 2 occasions when there was actually something out there that she wanted, which isn't the point. Grumble.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Amber and Remington

Just posted photos showing Amber and Remington in Rem's bio posted March 8.

Monday, March 10, 2003

So Hard

For once, I find it hard to say anything. Gods, I miss him so much.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

Remington's Gone / Biography

[remphoto]Remington was put to sleep quickly and painlessly this morning before 6:00 after he started having violent seizures in the night. At the moment, I'm not in Elk Grove after all.

Sunset and evening star,

And one clear call for me!

And may there be no moaning of the bar

When I put out to sea.

Remington's biography moved to a separate page.

Friday, March 07, 2003

Slithering Off...

...for the weekend again. For real this time. I am SO tired. Decided to sleep at home tonight & get up in the miniscule wee hours to drive to Elk Grove.

We started treating Rem's cough & stuffy nose w/antibiotics Wed. in case it is bacterial, but I don't think it's gotten better yet. I know I get bloody noses that drip into my throat when I've got a miserable cold sometimes. Talked to doctor this morning and she basically said well, that's about all we can do; it's either that or it's possibly cancer-related to stuff we saw in his lungs.

His poor little nose is so dry that it's splitting, even with topical treatment with Vitamin E and A&D ointment. Argh. Although vet says it looks much better today than it did Wednesday. She suggested I get a pediatric nasal spray for him to try to moisten the inside of his nose as well.

At the vet's this morning, he wouldn't eat their goodies but did gladly suck down a jar of turkey baby food. When we left the vet's, I grabbed the other dogs to go for a big long walk around the vet's neighborhood like we very often do after vet visits. Rem just dragged the whole way and looked very put out. I'm thinking he's starting to really hate having the other dogs around. He snapped at Tika twice when she tried to smell the same shrubberies he was smelling.

For breakfast, he didn't even come into the kitchen, just lay in the hallway. Came in, with coaxing, sniffed the canned food, and walked back out to the hallway to lie down. Offered him chicken in his bowl right in front of him. Nothing. But if I picked up the pieces of chicken and offered them to him in my fingers, he was willing to eat the whole lot, chewing each piece slowly and carefully.

When we perambulated this evening, he was his same brisk, eager self. Hence me thinking he resents the other dogs being around, especially Tika who's just all over the place and apparently is annoying someone other than just me. Another clue: When we got back from the walk, I offered him some chicken for a trick. He did a right turn slowly, sniffed at the chicken, and then just stood there glaring at the other dogs. Wouldn't eat the chicken. I took him into the living room, closed the other dogs out. Then he took a piece of chicken very gingerly, but within a minute had gotten almost perky and was eating the chicken (still chewing contemplatively) easily.

Came into the kitchen for dinner, slowly. Rejected canned food outright. But ate a whole batch of chicken plus a slice of fiber-filled bread with peanut butter.

Jeez, why would anyone want to read excruciating details about Rem's diet every meal for months on end? Guess no one needs to--

Tika's Being Bad: Wednesday in class she blew me off several times to chase a squirrel. She even blew off Rachel. She even got really huge shakedowns and she was just oblivious--took off the next time, too. Last week she was doing some of this and she got timeouts in the car while I pointedly ran Jake. She seemed to pay attention a bit more after the timeout, but not for too long. So much for my wonderful agility dog who is so focused and loves to be on the course. Now she's discovered that she *can* toot off on the course, she's going to. We'll see how things go this weekend--it's a covered/surrounded ring, so there won't be any livestock or squirrels for her to look at. Then maybe we'll see whether she at least sticks her contacts, which we've been working on really hard for 2 weeks after I ruint her 2 weeks ago by letting her leave early. Well, we'll see.

Mom's A Worry-Wart

Doctor thinks bloody phlegm could just be related to his stuffy and very dry nose--if it's as dry and cracky inside as outside, it could be bleeding a little. Red blood up to 37, which is good. Appetite iffy again.

Worrying again

Rem's stuffy nose and cough/gagging haven't stopped at all. This morning he coughed up very bloody phlegm. I'll take him in to the vet as soon as they're open.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Depressed Dog

I'm sure that some of Rem's problem is a feedback loop--a bit depressed about not feeling well, not being able to do fun things--which makes him feel not well--

I was gone most of the day. Got home, gave dogs dinner. Offered him the half a can left from breakfast. He was back to looking around, thinking about it. Ate several mouthfuls half-heartedly and walked away. I dug cooked chicken out of the freezer, shredded some up, and dumped that in his bowl. A big dog-sucking-up-the-chicken noise followed.

I had my own dinner, then again took just me & him for a nice long walk. One reason he doesn't get very excited at the moment is that every time he does, he starts cough/horking. But once we're out the door, he is a veritable force of nature, if forces of nature took walks. He heads away from home at the fastest trot he can manage without losing me, putting just enough tension on the leash for me to know that he's a strong dog who could give me a big jerk if he wanted to. It isn't until we're about 2 blocks away that he starts to relax, sniff things, look at what's going on out there, let there be slack in the leash. He still moves at a trot, but not so determinedly. But get within a couple of blocks of home, and suddenly every chlorphyl on every leaf has a smell that must be investigated. He droops. He drags. He can barely lift his feet. This is a dog who does not want to go home.

Unfortunately, I have other stuff to do. Like this. Dumb. He's always been more interested in continuing his walks than in coming home. Always. But now he's elevating it to the master's level of not wanting to go home. So I'm thinking I have to make it more appealing, coming home. Usually what happens after a walk is that I throw objects for Rem and Jake to rampage after. This time I fenced the other dogs out of the living room, and he and I did the Tricks game for more bits of chicken.

Something's not right about his body. I mean, we know that. But remember that limp-wristed thing? Still going on. Still won't do hang 10 with both legs. Now won't sit up & beg with both legs. Lifts one leg off the floor and sort of leans, but won't pick up the other leg. This from a dog who has always had phenomenal balance.

Anyway, after all that fun stuff, I got out a fresh can of dogfood and opened it. He came over to see what was cookin'. I lifted some on a spoon for him, and he chowed. I could hardly keep his nose out of the can, he wanted it so badly. Went through over half a can like that before he started slowing down and I decided to stop before he got turned off again.

But except for walks and doing tricks, he doesn't look like a happy dog. His tail almost never comes up. His ears almost never come up. He stands awkwardly, as if something doesn't feel good. He doesn't look miserable like he has the times the tumor's been bleeding, but he doesn't look happy, either. We're just waiting and watching.

Dinner Dance

Last night Rem ate a whole can of food at one time. This morning for breakfast, he actually did the dinner dance! (Rather low-key, but did it for first time in a while.) But then he ate only half a can-- go figure.

Situation Static

Nose still stuffy. Still subdued but not uncomfortable.

The 2 of us went on a long walk last evening. I let him lead, and he set the pace at a brisk trot; we must have gone about 2 miles. We went through the local park, and I let him off leash. In the past, this would have turned him into ballistic dog, running full speed for the joy of it across the grass. This time, he simply kept going at a brisk trot, and without having to worry about matching my pace, he quickly got ahead of me. One or twice he broke into a gallumph (a lope?) for about 5 paces and then dropped back to a trot. I hate thinking he's ill enough that I'll never see him run again.

Took him to agility class. While I ran Jake, I settled him into his double folding chair with his jacket on. He stood up for only about 15 minutes, then curled up, sometimes watching, sometimes dozing. Normally, he'd have been standing the whole time. He got lots of hugging and goodies from everyone. He got chicken and rollover and girl scout cookies and other stuff extracted from various pockets. Spit out crackery things, but did eventually eat some Triscuit after first rejecting it. After Jake's first run, he looked absolutely crushed that he wasn't out there with me, but I think he figured out that he didn't really *want* to be out there.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Vet Checkup

Rem's red count is 32, about the same as on Sunday. Not quite as high as I'd like--over 36, which I *think* is his normal operating level--but it seems stable. Xrays show chest is clear. Vet not sure on sneezing and stuffiness and gag/coughing--that's not always reassuring--but she did say since his resistance is down we could try antibiotics and see whether they help. I'm not a big fan of "what the heck" antibiotics because of how that has helped us to create a whole new world of diseases that are resistant, but in this case I think it's justified.

Also nose is very very dry. Suggests smearing vitamin E on it followed by A/D ointment (it's for diaper rash!).

Rem ate another half can of the dogfood mid-afternoon with some relish. I mean his attitude, not a condiment.

Otherwise Doing OK

Diarrhea is finally gone last night and this morning. Probably a combo of kaopectate, Pepcid, and finally eating something other than just plain meat. First thing this morning, though, he went outside and immediately started grass grazing--did that for about 10 minutes before doing anything else.

Otherwise he looks and acts mostly OK except for being generally more subdued than what used to be normal.

Ate the half can of different chickeny-gravy-y dogfood I gave him fairly enthusiastically. I'm going to try feeding him in smaller doses more often and see whether he takes to that. I'm thinking that he might think that's not the proper routine and refuse to participate, but it's worth trying.

Getting in the car: Rem has always loved getting in the car. However, recently, he hasn't been so keen on it. You'd maybe expect that from home, since so often we go to the vet's (although I've tried to throw in as many trips to the park or shopping or such). But it's also AFTER the vet's! Like maybe, dang, we're just going to go home and I'm going to lie around and feel miserable and I'd rather be DOING something.

Since he no longer has the energy to take himself to the yard for entertainment--Tika has taken over the duty of lying where the backyard view is clear and scouting for enemy squirrels or birds--and we're no longer doing agility, walks are about all he does for fun any more. Tricks, too, but those don't go on forever. (Mom gets bored.)

Here's another weird thing--I just reviewed the text for errors, and realized I had typed "Sheba" instead of "Tika" in the previous paragraph. That was our old husky who died about 4 years ago. She was also a gray dog with a white tummy. Also sharp and alert and smart and often a pain in the butt (running away, mostly). Funny that should creep in right now.


Not only has Rem been sneezing a lot since Sunday, but the hack/gagging has been getting worse (nothing coming up), and last night and this morning his nose is distinctly stuffy. Wondering whether he's picked up one of those dread "secondary infections," although his white cells have been good for a while. Will try to see the vet this morning.

Otherwise he looks OK.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Sparky's Leaving Us

My friend's Sparky dog, who long outlasted the prediction for lifespan with her cancer, is at the end. We've known it's coming; she's gotten worse and worse more rapidly lately and has deteriorated a lot, although she still perks up for special events. Her mom has arranged for the doctor to come tomorrow and give her the final injection. I'm already so exhausted, I wouldn't think that I could add another weight to my load, but even though I know that she's succeeded in living a wonderful life far beyond medical's expectations, it still feels like a defeat by the cancer demon, and I hear his footsteps growing louder. One thing about coming to the end is that the waiting and wondering is over. No more, "are we at the point of no return or will it get better again?" "am I doing the right thing?" "is s/he in too much pain?" I know the tension is felt by the dog as well.

I cannot think of any words that would give me comfort when I finally come to the same decision; how can I find anything for someone else? I know that lots of people care about me and Remington, and have shown it all along, and I think perhaps that's enough and that's all I'd need. Don't know yet, though. When Amber died, every time someone said, "I'm sorry," I'd start crying again.

I guess I could say, "Man, that Sparky is a great dog." It's true and it's important. And it doesn't demand a response. Sigh.

Almost Playful

Box: I had to be gone most of the day today. I still haven't seen any of Rem's #2 so I don't know whether he's still miserably diarrheaic. He was happy to see me but still a bit subdued. When we went out into the yard and I offered him a box, he jumped down into full play/scramble mode, pounced on the box-- and walked away. Got a drink of water. Spent a couple of minutes gagging.

Breakfast and dinner: I didn't have time to make more chicken, so for breakfast I tried the canned chicken-like stuff and some kibble again. He took one mouthful and walked away, but hung around looking like wanted *something*. He ate about 2/3 of an English muffin, then I gave him several handfuls of doggie junk food (Rollover-equivalent (Science Diet version, I think)) and he ate those quite handily. So he didn't have much to eat all day. This evening, gave him the same bowl with the same stuff from the fridge. He thought about it for a while, sniffed at it, looked at the other dogs, then finally ate the whole thing, even the kibble.

That was only half a can of the dog food, though, and according to the label he shd be getting 1.5-2 cans daily. Therefore, I spooned a bit more into his bowl. Sniffed, wouldn't eat it, but wanted to know what I had in the can in my hand. Soooooo I scooped the stuff out one spoonful at a time and let him eat from the spoon. Got almost all of the rest of the can down that way before he turned away and left the room. (These are the big cans. So it actually seems like a lot of food to me.)

Tricks and mixed signals: After a while, we did tricks in the living room. Mixed signals. He looked alert and did what was requested and ate the doggie junk food quite happily. But when standing, his butt looked tucked under, and his tail never came up at all. So front end looked ok, back end not happy. And here's the thing I can't figure out: the limp wrist. I commented last week or the week before that I'd never had a limp-wristed shake from a dog before Rem offered it at that time. Well, tonight, too, the paws were very limp. The high-five didn't get more than about waist-high. And when I asked him to do hang-10 (both front paws hanging over my arm), he'd only put one there, even while sitting down.

Tummy? He's been doing more gagging this evening, but nothing's coming up. Have given him Pepcid A/C and kaopectate today.

Nursing on the Squirrel:Here's the GOOD thing. When I later got out the Special Toy Box and extracted his giant furry squirrel, he didn't get up off his bed. His ears didn't come up. But his eyes looked like he was interested--I don't know how I can tell the difference between ears back/miserable and ears back/interested. But I can. So I wiggled it around on his bed a bit, and he finally grabbed it, pulled a very little bit of tug-o-war, and then settled in to nurse on it for about 20 minutes. That's a GOOD long episode, and he usually won't nurse on a furry thing unless he's feeling contented, and the more he feels right with the world, the longer he nurses. Of course, now, he's probably making up for lost time. But this is the first time in over a week, I think.

Another new document

Added a narrative summary of diagnosis & treatment to date; link on the FAQs page.

Not Playful

Although Rem likes his walks and gophers, he hasn't felt good enough to be playful in at least a week. Last night it looked like he was trying-- I got out a Box while I was playing with the other dogs. Usually he springs into the I'm Ready To Rumble posture and I toss it to him and he grabs it, shakes it, flings it around, runs around like crazy, plays a little tug of war, finally settles down to pulling its flaps off. Last night when I got out a Box, he looked at it which is more than he's done for a week, but his ears didn't go up. I tossed it and played with it a little bit and he watched; finally slammed one foot down onto it, took a flap tentatively in his mouth, then after about 5 seconds walked away.

Later in the evening, when I get the Special Toys out of the box for indoor play, he still wasn't interested in his big furry toy. Usually it's a lot of shaking, a little tug-o-war, and then he settles down to nurse on it for 5-20 minutes, depending on how contented he feels. Last night he looked but made no effort to take it. I noticed later that he had put one foot on it and was resting his chin on it, which is more than he's done for a week, but it was so pathetic that my heart crumbled.

He's not usually a playful dog anyway--too serious for that--but we usually get some a couple of times a day.

He has diarrhea again--or just very uncomfortable #2 habits. Leaves little half-formed splortches around the yard, sometimes puddles. Yesterday afternoon and evening he was going outside every hour or so, but he did sleep through the night. I gave him some kaopectate last night. We'll see how he does today.

Monday, March 03, 2003

No Pumpkin Head Here

I offered Rem some pumpkin from a spoon straight out of the can on the counter so he'd think it was people food. Didn't fool him. He still figured it's fruit and he doesn't do fruit. (Come on, he's a dog--he don't know nothin' about no vegetables.)

But he did some tricks eagerly for doggie junk food, so now he's eating that again. For dinner I dropped a quarter cup of dry kibble in with his chicken, as I have been doing, and for the first time in a week, he ate it--slowly, one at a time, chewing thoughtfully, but he ate it. I also slipped in half a spoonful of pumpkin. He did not touch any of the kibble that had come into contact with it and were therefore infested with pumpkin cooties. When he was done, he didn't leave, either. Stood there, pondering his bowl. So I scooped another third of a cup of kibble and dropped it into his bowl (carefully avoiding the pumpkin). He sniffed at it, considered it, but didn't eat it. Didn't leave, either. However, when I picked it out of the bowl and offered it to him in my hand, he ate it all. Funny guy.

Gophers and Peanut Butter

Rem and I went for a brisk walk out to the local gopher field. Good that he was brisk. Much more interested in hunting gophers than in eating grass, so he's for sure feeling better than last week. Monitored and dug at a couple of gopher holes for a while.

I've been trying to figure out how to get some fiber down him, since he seems to want to eat only meat and the, um, end results are a little iffy. Slathered half of a whole-wheat English muffin with peanut butter, and he had no qualms about eating every piece I offered him. Still not jumping up and down with excitement about the food, but at least he didn't stop and think and sniff, let alone reject it outright.

I haven't tried plain pumpkin yet, mostly because he's rejected babyfood with veggies in it so I don't have high hopes. But maybe I'll try it. If I have to toss a can that he refuses, well, pumpkin is cheap. And it composts nicely.

New Calendar of Events

Filled in history, attempting to be brief, of illness, treatments, Rem's behavior to try to help me better understand what he's going through and how often. See link at right.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Today Is Not Too Bad

Rem's red blood count is back up to 33, almost normal. I couldn't bear to wait until tomorrow to check, so I took him to the emergency clinic to get tested. I was worried because, although he seems alert and his gums seem pink to me, still he's very slow and still mostly just wants to sleep.

He's been sneezing a lot the last couple of days. Maybe he's allergic to something, but I also wonder whether it's related to his illness.

He woke me up panting heavily a couple of times during the night, and my hindbrain said "Respiratory distress!" and I woke way up, but apparently he was just dreaming about chasing squirrels.

He was eager for breakfast and ate all the chicken--not a professional-level eager or chow down, but he didn't waste any time looking around and thinking about it. On the other hand, I snuck some kibble in with some chicken water and hamburger, and he left all of that in the bowl after picking out the chicken. So his appetite isn't completely normal. It might never be again.

He's been active enough to trot outside with the other dogs and help taunt a cat they've had up a tree all morning. And he did go and look out the front window for a couple of minutes, which used to be one of his full-time job responsibilities and which he hasn't done in a while.

[Side note: Someone else's pet in my yard, again, allowed loose & unsupervised, and *I* have to deal with the consequences--I kept the dogs penned up in the house for 2 hours waiting for the cat to come down & leave, but he didn't. I tried 2 different ladders but one isn't tall enough and the other one seems to be bent so it won't work properly. So now I have to periodically go out and tell the dogs to stop saying things about the cat's ancestry in such loud annoying voices. Grrr. The people to whom I think it belongs don't seem to be home, or I'd have had them trying to get the cat out of the tree.]

Went we all went for a walk, though, he was quite draggy. At the vet's office this morning, while we were waiting for the test results, he stood up for a little while, but when I suggested he sit, he shlumped all the way to the floor and over onto his side and just lay there the rest of the wait.

So if he's not bleeding, it's probably just the tumor(s) taking up too many of his body's resources.

Saturday, March 01, 2003

How Do You Make A Decision? In Which Ellen Ponders and Curses the Inevitable.

I've received two nice letters this week from strangers on the internet who've found our site while searching for info on hemangiosarcoma. What a rough disease. One letter inspired the following thinking-out-loud dump of the load I'm carrying.

With Remington's current status looking like this might be his last week or 2, I can't help but wonder whether the medical fees have been worth the 4 extra months. (Without any treatment, they didn't think he'd survive a month.) I had the financial resources and I've tried to make sure that Rem has had a good time whenever possible, and we've done some things that I wouldn't have gotten around to doing for a long time, maybe never, if I hadn't known he had a fatal illness. If I hadn't had the financial resources, say a few years ago, I'd have had to let the illness take its course or possibly even have him put to sleep much earlier. That's not a terrible thing at all. In fact, Rem has had some unpleasant experiences during these months, too--long periods in the hospital without me, getting those 2 transfusions or whatever--so it hasn't all been gophers and home-cooked chicken. But--having spent the $--I don't regret it. Now, if I had to spend that much a month to keep *all* my dogs alive all the time, that would be wayyy different.

And I still have cash, and I could still spend more, but how much more do I spend on what is ultimately a losing proposition, and at what expense to *Remington*, who is, after all, the one who matters the most in all of this?

In some ways, it's a smarter decision not to fight it, since you know that the results are foregone and the end will be much quicker than you could possibly hope, and of course it's the *dog* who bears the brunt of all of our medical attempts to keep him alive. I think all they want is to be with their loving families.

I'm wrestling now with the dilemma that we have the power to prevent a dying dog from going through an extended period of misery, something we don't have for people. When is the dog's quality of life compromised enough that he would be better off closing his eyes and going peacefully on to the great milkbone in the sky? How do I know whether I'm keeping him alive because *I* don't want to lose him or because he's enjoying life enough? I don't really want him to slowly bleed to death, either. That doesn't seem fair to him.

I keep thinking back to the phrase, "Where there's life, there's hope--" but, with hemang., there's really no long-term hope. But there might be hope for another few good days. I don't see that Rem is in pain at the moment, although his energy is low. However, he's certainly so miserable when bleeding is going on that, if it happens too frequently, I can't see forcing him to continue to go through that. And there's only so much that a transfusion can do. It might give him enough energy for another day or 2, but it's just holding off the inevitable, and I'm not willing to trade a day in the hospital for a day or 2 of false energy. So I don't think we'll be doing any more transfusions. The other problem with transfusions is that they can increase the blood pressure, so if there's active bleeding going on, it can just keep it happening rather than leaving the lower blood pressure which possibly allows the rupture to close up.

I cried a lot the first days after the diagnosis while he was in the hospital. And every time he's bled badly inside, I lose him all over again and the tears come again. Thinking about all the holes that will be left in my life with him gone hurts a lot. I have gradually been able to build myself a usable mental image of life with the other two beasties. And this is just my dog, for crying out loud, who'd probably have not lived more than a few more years anyway. I can't imagine how people find the strength to handle the loss of a spouse or a child or a parent. I think that as people and dogs gradually age, you gradually build your own mental and emotional model in which the logical progression beyond very old age is death, and you also expect a gradual changing of activity level and slowly decreasing strength and robustness--not that frailness is inevitable, but someone's who's 80 just isn't going to be as robust as someone who's 40.

But when the illness or death comes suddenly, early, unexpectedly, you have to fight the whole "It's not fair." "Why me? Why now?" thing and the sudden unexpected change in your life and your plans and your vision of what your life would be like for the next however many years AS WELL as dealing with the loss.

I'm fortunate in that I work from home most of the time, so I am with him almost all the time now. He now won't eat anything other than meat, and I don't think it's because he's spoiled by all the extra stuff. He really just doesn't have the appetite or interest in anything else any more. And that's sad.

We went for a walk, just the 2 of us, again today, over in the field where there are gopher holes. Today he had the energy to try to dig one out. And he had the energy to sniff around at stuff and go looking for squirrels, too. Rest of the time he's on his bed, sleeping deeply, saving his small amount of energy reserve. Does have the energy today to get up and join the other annoying beasts when they start woofing at an imagined offender out the front window, and when he lifts his head, it's with bright eyes and raised ears, not with a sick dog's demeanor.

So we keep going.

I Stayed Home

The extra chicken was cooked for Rem's meals. Ice filled the cooler. The car was packed. The dogs were strapped in. It was 8:00 P.M., right on schedule (hopefully miss the outgoing traffic but still get there around bed time). We drove to the gas station, filled car with gas. Drove home. Went to bed.

I realized how exhausted I was--got only 2 hrs sleep Thursday night (I actually attribute about 60% of that to a new medication)--and I realized that I wasn't looking forward to the weekend at all. That's rare for me and agility (you might have guessed). Rem had simply snoozed all evening, although he lifted his head from time to time and alertly checked to see how my packing was progressing. Usually he hangs out and supervises the process. When I finally asked whether he Wanted To Go, his head came up, ears up, eyes bright, head half-cocked, and he trotted along out to the car. Where he immediately curled up on the seat and tucked his head under. This is a dog who usually insists on looking out the window in case an Official Cow appears on the horizon, even at night. He did sit up after a while on the way to the gas station, but he was leaning head and body against the seat to prop himself up, and then eventually he lay down again.

So I also decided that he probably wasn't going to enjoy the weekend much after all. Got home, cancelled the hotel, tried to call the show secretary to let them know I wouldn't be there (too late for fee refunds, oh well) but she was already gone for the weekend; tried to call another friend who might have been going to Turlock, but she was already gone for the weekend, and I was too tired to try calling other people. So it's possible people will be worried about us not being there, but oh well.

So I got about 10 hours of sleep. Rem wanted to go out 2x last night, but the first time there was a big cat fight that he wanted to cheer on, so I'm not sure whether that counts. Don't know what he did out there--I don't generally monitor when its DARK and COLD and I'm TIRED and I'm in my slipper feet and there might be DANGEROUS ANIMALS like COWS or something out there.

He's similarly low energy level again this morning, but he still doesn't look hang-dog and accusing like he was doing Sunday night and Monday morning.

I think I'll go to the flea market to get my nominal exercise, then probably come home and take a nap. I'm still a bit tired. Wonder why?