Archive for October, 2012

I dunno….wearing a costume for Halloween…….

You want me to dress up as WHAT?

Get dressed up she said….it’ll be fun she said…..

Well this is what I think of your costume! Now pass the candy.


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Consisting of the commandments, dictates and musings of a spoiled dog.

1.Thou shalt not go to the kitchen alone. You are prone to dropping food and leaving it unattended, and it would not be good if the cats got fat.

2.Thou shalt take me out when I have to pee, or I will bark. Twice. Maybe three times.

3.Thou shalt not hold back a timbit. I can count, and I know there are two. If I get only one, I will have to start riding shotgun in the front seat of the car.

4.Thou shalt crawl under tables and other furniture to retrieve my ball. Unless you want me to do it myself and upend said furniture.

5.Thou shalt be patient as I smell the roses while attending to the call of nature. Or I will find hitherto undiscovered reserves in my bladder that guarantee you are out there until it rains.

6.What’s mine is mine. What’s yours is mine too, if it’s A: edible, and B: within my reach.

7.Stuffed toys are meant to be unstuffed. That’s why they stuff them. If you do not understand this, give me back my pile of stuffing.

8.If you love me as much as the cats, and we are all “brothers” under the skin, my skin should be allowed in your lap/recliner, just like the cats.

9.If people do not want to be loved by a big dog, they should not come to the door. Let them climb in through the windows.

10.Balls are the raison d’etre for a Golden Retriever. I require great quantities of all kinds of balls, tennis, rubber, cat’s crinkle balls, etc. And never, ever must you lose track of where my beloved snowball is or there will be no peace until it is found.

Grady and the beloved “snowball”

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We need to talk

Yo, Grady. We need to talk about a few things. But in the spirit of smoothing the path ahead, we’ll start with one or two compliments.

First, while I’m still disappointed about the regular ebb and flow of the tide from your water fountain on the kitchen floor, I have also been happy recently, not to have to change my underwear in the middle of the day when your overflowing flews drop most of the contents in my lap. Good boy.

Second ….um……this may require more time to come up with a second one. Let’s move on.

You know how I enjoy your company, and your enthusiasm. But enthusiasm tempered with restraint can be a wonderful thing. So dignified, so noteworthy. So much more likely that I will survive the onslaught. I suspect that teaching you to kiss me may have been a tactical error, so if you could perhaps not go about it with quite so much wild abandon, I would really appreciate it. Part of the problem as you know, is that I already need surgery on one knee, and if you keep trying to climb into my lap after my lips, then we are both going to be in a pickle when I am no longer mobile enough to take you outside.

And speaking of going outside…I realize that dogs have no concept of wearing things, but really, if you stand there at the door on my duckies/boots, the likelihood of you getting outside is not very good. In addition, although I know you are blind and can’t see it, you are smart enough to know that doors open and close. And if you stand in front of or against a closed door it will not open. Ever.

Inside, it seems much of your time is spent de-stuffing toys. There is a purpose to stuffing those things. It makes them fat and fluffy, and cute. There is no goldmine of treats inside them, and while they may very well have been made in China, trying to dig to China through a gutted toy is not going to get you a pot of gold.

We also need to talk about digestive systems. Our innards are essentially the same in function and purpose: we eat, therefore we poop. However, I have never gotten you up at 5:30am in order to do this. And if I did, I know you would not give a fig, since you are not required to get up and take me to the bathroom. But really Grady…you must have noticed the stomping, the snarling, and the one-sided conversation in a language you are not familiar with. This I am sorry to say, is because a good portion of the words might be considered…oh… swearing.

So you see, there is a reason for those times when you hear a note of tension entering my voice. And that rough, grinding sound, well that would be my teeth clenching. Do you think maybe we could work on some of ….Grady? Grady, are you listening? Wake up, dammit!

Grady listening….not. And no, I was not laughing when I took this. It is out of focus because…because it’s the camera’s fault.

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When my mind derailed while following this train of thought, I wondered “Dear doG, is there anybody still alive that studied Latin in high school?” If there isn’t, surely there are at least a few, once-teenaged people who somewhere in the recesses of the mind where things like answers to calculus questions hide, may remember hearing the phrase/expression: Veni, Vidi, Vici. It’s attributed to the great Julius Caesar on taking a city after a very short war in 47B.C. Considering that Caesar only lived another three years and was stabbed in the back, the victory was also short lived. It means “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

What does this have to do with a blind dog, you may wonder. Well, I am nothing if not a realist. That’s not to say that reality can’t be viewed from a more advantageous perspective. I know that Grady is not a beautiful dog. A generous term would be “handsome”. But I used to breed and show Goldens, and I know that huge, long body, the somewhat bizarre head structure, and the narrowness of his frame, might look good on oh…say, an Irish Wolfhound.

The two things that stand out about him are his topline (the outline of the dog from the withers to the tail), and his gait when trotting. He has a gait that most horse breeders would kill for. Grady can move so smoothly his topline doesn’t go up and down at all. Then he stops and you see the real dog.

Ever one to look for the silver lining, I decided he has a very noble stance, much like a warrior contemplating his next battle (the cat with claws at noon or slippers in a showdown at dawn?). He stands tall, and proud. Just like the ancient Romans. To see him standing at the top of the front stairs, you’d almost…almost but not quite feel like he was saying to himself “Veni, Vidi, Vici.” But no. Grady has a somewhat different motto. It’s Veni, Vidi, Comedi.

Now, you might think that has something to do with comedy, or funny things, and I’ll be the first to admit that living with Grady is a hoot. But it stems from his propensity to steal anything even remotely edible. The first week he was here, it was a cheese sandwich off the cupboard. The next victim was nearly a whole loaf of French bread. And just last week I had left half a bumbleberry crumble in a 10” pie pan, in the pie box, on the back of the counter. Then I went downstairs. I did hear some thumping and scuffling but the cats were playing. So was Grady. When I came back up he was just taking his head out of the box which was now on the floor. There wasn’t a crumb left.

So yes, Veni Vidi Comedi suits him to a T. It means, I came, I saw, I ate it. All hail the Emperor Grady!

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Those who are regular followers of our blog have come to know it’s pretty much about the journey Grady and I are on together – that of learning, teaching, and simply enjoying the best of each other, with a focus on the humour, because let’s face it, when you lose the ability to laugh in favour of frustration or anger, then you lose a little bit of your humanity. But Grady and I have been on a slightly different journey lately, one into a darker and more frightening world where there were few laughs.

On Sept.2, I groomed Grady from head to tail, and then wrote the Greco Grady Wrestling article. He looked fabulous, sleek and sassy and no longer a bag of bones. A week later, on Sept.10, I noticed a little wet spot in his feathers, but as I’d been away all day and the cats had left three large puddles of unspeakable hairball contents, I thought he had maybe sat in one.

The next morning as he passed me on the stairs, I saw the spot was bigger, wetter, and I reached out to separate the feathers. That’s when my hand encountered the lump. And not just on the skin – a huge lump that turned out to be a pullet egg sized tumour growing on the back of his left buttock, and it was leaking. It was an ugly, fat thing with blood veins in it, and although Grady did not seem aware of it, I, having lost two dogs already this year one of whom had mast cell tumours, was more than aware of what it was.

The vet tried to do a needle biopsy but was unable to get enough material to study the cells. All he could say was that there were a lot of white blood cells in it, and the fact that it had grown so fast was significant and not very good news. Even worse, we could not get on a surgery schedule anywhere within 70 miles for nearly a week. I could have taken him further, but to leave him alone there after a major surgery would have been cruel to a blind dog that was just becoming secure in his new environment.

Three days before the surgery when we went in for pre-op blood work, Grady had developed two hot spots on his tail that he was chewing and irritating. For good reason, I asked the tech not to shave his tail, but she went ahead and did it anyway. When Grady came to me in June he was still focusing on the shaved spot on his front leg where the IV had been when he was neutered. This seemed to be how he was expressing the anxiety from everything he had dealt with: being abandoned, starving, not knowing where he was, nor able to see who he was with.

The shaved spots on his tail put him into a nervous whirl of biting, chewing, and racing back and forth to the point where he would lose track of where he was and started banging into things, all the while running with his tail curled to the side and trying to bite it. The first night, this panicked behaviour lasted five hours before he collapsed on his bed and slept. Only to repeat the manic dashing, biting and chewing for hours at a time over the next two days.

Besides the obvious concern about whether the tumour was malignant, there was the fear that having an entire shaved buttock would stress him even further. In my wildest imagination, I had no concept of just how bad it would get.

The vet managed to remove the entire tumour, taking a measure of extra tissue to make sure it was all gone, but he did not like the appearance of the root of it. As it required sending away for a biopsy there was little else to be done at the time.

I had bought Grady one of the inflatable collars, because the hard plastic cone would interfere with his ability to use sound echo/bouncing to determine where objects were. Unfortunately, it was useless. Even well fitted and inflated fully, he was able to bend sideways and reach right over to the middle of his back, let alone his rear end. I resorted to cutting a slit in the seat of two pairs of panties and putting them on him so he could not get at the incision, even if he could reach the tail he was still obsessing about. When that failed, we went to a SoftE collar which was a great concept because the softness would allow it to flex.

It was still not enough. By the next day Grady was frantic about his “injuries”, more about the tail than the surgical site. Left with no choice, I put the cone on him and he went berserk. Something about his tail, whether it was a real itch, the sensation of a bite, or pain, would make him suddenly jump and take off on a terrified dash back and forth and into walls, knocking over kitchen chairs, and banging into things which would make him jump even more, and repeat the whole mad flight.

This was our life for the next week, during which Grady alternated between these hysterical and distraught flights and collapsing on his bed. It was sheer torture to watch, and even worse to know that all I could do for him was make certain he wasn’t hurt, reassure him, hand feed him when necessary. After a while he was almost afraid to go stand and eat at his bowl, because the unknown, unseen pursuer would bite him and he’d be off in flight again.

Eight days post surgery we made the decision to put him on Clomicalm in an effort to deal with his anxiety. At ten days he was able to go on prednisone for the itching. And while Clomicalm can take 2-3 weeks to even them out, there can be immediate benefits like sleepiness. That didn’t happen for Grady, but his panic dropped down a notch the first day. Two days after starting the prednisone he came out of the hated cone. And brought me his favourite ball.

The biopsy results came back as a benign tumour that contained cysts, was infected, and may have originated in a deep, soft tissue injury that was aggravated by chewing or further injury and had built this fleshy mass around it. There were no cancer cells found. I felt like a limp rag. And Grady…well, he wanted to play!

The whole experience was a nightmare, but I did learn a few things

1.Inflatable collars are useless for rear end body protection. Also useless was a soft collar I bought known as the SoftE collar from MDC Exports in the UK. It was not their fault that the re-seller did not mention in their text, that this collar (which is actually excellent and would have served had it been deeper) was only meant for protecting the head and ears from scratching.

2.Sometimes you have to get mean, because you know your dog better than anyone else. I’m not saying to go ballistic, but nobody will ever shave him again unless it is a life and death matter.

3.Stress can be as damaging and painful as physical injury/surgery. While the Clomicalm seems to be working, Grady needed more and immediately. I dislike medicating dogs but this whole experience has set him back as far as his comfort level in general. He still licks his paws, despite the meds, but he’s coming along.

4.Change is scary when you’re blind. Because the prednisone made him drink more, I took up the water fountain the first night and he spent hours looking for it. The next night I left it on the floor, but empty. He understood that. No water was okay. No fountain distressed him.

5.People, including vets and vet techs, sometimes don’t take into consideration, the larger picture when it comes to a blind dog. Every little thing that happened to Grady was another unknown for him: pain, itching, biting, hitting things, not knowing where he was…

6.In some small part, I learned what it is to be blind and scared. The hardest thing was acknowledging that the best thing I could do, was to be his constant: the same companionship, the same voice, the same love. We are still on our journey, but it is on a path that is divided much like the yellow line down the center of the road. On my side there is sight and visual stimulus. On his, there is only darkness and the unknown. I will never be able to cross that line for him, nor will he ever come into my world of light and wonder. But we can reach across the line and go forward together.

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