a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: April 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Childhood (and adult) Influences

SUMMARY: How did I end up with the breeds I did?

As a kid, I loved German Shepherds from Rin Tin Tin reruns and Lassie from, yeh, Lassie reruns. Hence, wanted:
  • A German Shepherd  (GSD)
  • A Collie
So my parents started getting me Albert Peyson Terhune books, which I read and reread (and it was his Grey Dawn that made me decide I wanted a blue merle when I grew up). So I wanted:
  • [Replacing "Colllie"] A blue merle Collie
I also read all the other dog fiction in the elementary school library (oddly, although I read all of Jim Kjelgaard's dog fiction, I did *not* decide I wanted an Irish Setter. Maybe because a neighbor down the street had one and although he was sweet, he was also a gangly doufus). Everyone knew they could get me a book about dogs or dog breeds as gifts and I'd be happy. I could list all the AKC breeds in each of the groups from memory. (Wish I'd known that non-AKC breeds even existed back then! Americans are so unaware of the other few hundred breeds out there!) So it was confirmed that I wanted:
  • A dog of any kind
When I was maybe in 5th grade, we got a big yellow Collie/Shepherd mix (who was more like a big yellow collie in coat and shape). She was really smart and a lot of fun.  Oddly, I didn't have any interest in training of any kind.  I'm pretty sure that that had *no* influence *whatsoever* on my interest in:
  • Big yellow mixed-breed dogs
Then when I was in college, I saw a Golden working on obedience practice at a local field and fell in love with Golden Retrievers. Talked with his human quite a bit. So I added Golden Retriever to my Big Three list (including a GSD and a blue merle Collie):
  • A Golden Retriever
 THEN I saw a border collie working and learned more about them and so of course I wanted one of THOSE, probably more than I wanted a Collie collie (my sister got a tricolor Collie collie. Very smart. Demonstrably of the Lassie Come-Home ilk. But ugh, those heads and huge huge coats). So I wanted a:
  • [Replacing "Blue merle Collie"] A blue merle Border Collie
And eventually learned about Aussies and loved them, too, but that was after I grew up and had my first 2 dogs already, but before I knew about dog agility. And my sister had one, a beautiful red merle, smart, too. So now I *also* wanted:
  • Blue merle Australian Shepherd
After I started agility and realized that *everyone* had Border Collies or Shelties or Goldens or Corgis or whatever, I realized the great value of mixed breeds, which is that they don't look like anyone else's dogs! So I wanted
  • Emphasis on mixed breeds
After all those exposures, I've had:
  • A big yellow shepherd/golden mix (knew the parents), so I got a twofer
  • a blue/gray husky (my ex's choice, but my colors!), 
  • a sheltie mix, 
  • another big yellow Shepherd mix, 
  • a blue merle Aussie/husky mix, 
  • a blue merle border collie, 
  • and now two random mixes that fit only that qualification. (One is supposed to be a tricolor BC mix. Other supposed to be a big yellow whippet mix. Not sure whether I believe either of those.) 
How about you?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Last night a year ago last night a year ago today

SUMMARY: Oh my little Booster. And everyone else.

This is not a happy post.

Today is Monday.

Saturday night I dreamed. I hurried from place to place in the yard and then out into the neighborhood and then back to the yard to places that I suddenly remembered existed there although they hadn't necessarily existed before, searching desperately, knowing she was gone but wanting to find her.

A year ago yesterday, I put together all the pieces that I had stupidly not realized the significance of and insisted that we had to see the vet TODAY. We saw the vet. Everything was completely normal as far as the vet could tell. Took blood and urine samples, and then we went home for the weekend.

In two weeks, she'll be dead.

Saturday night, I dreamed. I asked the neighbors if they had seen her. I said that she'd been looking for a place to hide away from everyone and it could be anywhere, any dark, quiet, out-of-the-way spot. I knew that she was gone, but I wanted to know where she was, even though it was too late.

A year ago in 48 hours from now, I learned that what the blood test found was that every indicator of a body in full destruction existed therein. All that we had left was to learn what it was that was killing her.

Yesterday, after dreaming, I woke up and cried and cried and cried.

A year and one month ago: Tika died.

A year and two weeks ago: Dad's cancer, thought to be in remission, the doc comes into the room and explains that it's determined to be stage 4 metastasized colon cancer. In several places in his body, liver, lungs, kidney...

Today I'm crying. Luke is trying to hug me.

Saturday night, I dreamed: I knew where Boost had hidden the last time she died, but she wasn't there, although I kept looking there over and over.

In two weeks, I tried to stay up with her all night, would doze off slightly and she'd be gone and I'd hurry outside to find her, and she'd be slowly, droopily, examining some dark hidden spot or other. I'd say her name, and her ears and head would come up, and she'd come back inside and lie down with me in the living room again.

In four days, the vet comes into the room and says, it's bad. It's the worst it could be. It's stage 4 metastasized cancer. In several places in her body. liver, lungs, kidney, lymph nodes...

A year and two weeks ago, Dad opted to try some mild chemotherapy, on the advice of his oncologist and doctor, since he had other issues that anything more intense his body likely couldn't handle.

A year and two weeks ago, Tika's ashes in their decorated wooden box are ready, and I bring her home again.

Saturday night, I dreamed: I kept looking at that little concrete pad under that little shelf next to the stairs, somewhere where neither the dogs nor I ever went, a cool spot out of the sun, away from the traffic and the activity of life.

I opted not to try to treat Boost. It was so advanced and her blood count so low that simply doing a biopsy could kill her. And I'd been through Remington's cancer. And yet, when a tiny glimmer of hope arises, in six days, I take her to the specialists on the chance that they might have some other news. But they don't.

In about 2 months, my dad is so miserable with the chemo side effects, and there's so little indication that it's doing anything, that he elects to stop treatment. He is adamant that he won't die at home. He doesn't want to be a burden to his family and he doesn't want them to see him die. We'd be fine with both, but he isn't. There are no options, however.

In two weeks, when I doze off near morning, she goes to that concrete pad that I'm now seeing empty in my dream, away from the traffic and noise and the responsibilities to people who love her, and slips away, alone and on her own terms.

Four months from yesterday, after a 911 emergency call involving the dying body giving up its blood, the ambulance took Dad to the hospital just for overnight, because the in-patient hospice unit had a bed for him and would be able to check him in there in the morning. The emergency room doc agreed to admit Dad with just the care of keeping him comfortable and out of pain until the morning, not to treat beyond that, per his own signed wishes. We tell Dad, although pretty sure that he can't hear us or understand us or even knows that we're there, that we'll be back in the morning.

In the living room, in two weeks I fall asleep from exhaustion even though I'm trying trying trying to stay up because I know that she's dying, I know it, and maybe today. I don't know why I want to be with her at the end, but I do, I don't want her to be alone ever. And the vet is coming in the morning to help her out of her pain. And she has a different idea.

At home, in fourth months I fall asleep easily for the first time in weeks, knowing that he won't die at home and that that was his wish, since I'd been afraid he'd die at home and I had known that it was coming, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, but we were out of time. At one in the morning, while we slept at home, the call comes. In his quiet hospital bed, away from the traffic and noise and the responsibilities to people who love him, he slips away, alone and on his own terms.

Tika, Boost, Dad. It has been a hard year for me and this past week began pummelling me in all the raw places that have barely begun thinking about a start on healing.

In two weeks the vet will come and take Boost away for cremation. In four months the mortuary will come and take Dad away for cremation. Tika's ashes are already on my shelf with Jake and Remington.

In a year, I will remember everything, all the details, all the sounds and expressions and suffering and release, and it will be today, and I will be crying because it's only yesterday.

Saturday I dreamed, and even awake, it's so hard.