Sunday, June 26, 2011

TinkerBelle-the end of an Era

Tink the Tank, Mrs Elk Pants, StinkerBelle, Tinker, Smellbox. Why do we give our friends these silly, pet names? TinkerBelle, like the fairy of the same name, was both sweet and naughty. Tink was a fighter, especially with other females. That giant maw of a mouth was terrifying when her teeth were snapping, her eyes were narrowed, and the hair on her back went straight up, puffed and prickled . Tink was quite prickly. In her life she survived a broken wrist, breast cancer, perihemangiosarcoma, a tumor on her adrenal gland, IBD, one, two, liver surgeries, the last which also removed her gall bladder. There were surgeries to remove tumors, pancreatitis, flare up after flareup of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, yeast infections, UTI's. She never gave up so I never gave up on her. But one Friday in June of 2011, she was so ready to go to sleep. When she arrived at Mt. View as her final destination, she lay right down on the soft pillow they had fixed up for her, and closed her eyes. Many of Tink's friends came in to say good bye, but she was already sniffing the winds north of the Rainbow Bridge. The previous evening, she and I had sat together out in the yard, facing North, as that nose worked the breezes, and I laid my hand on her soft redbrown fur, for what I knew what would be the last night. We talked of the others waiting for her; Nemo, Pyro, Athena, and how soon she would be leading the team, in single lead of course, in her Silver Harness. A myriad of other Scofield animals would be there, but Tink would be back in her glory days, when she ran like the steady soul she was. She always used to do her spinning when she saw the harness come out and would pull until told to stop. She was Sparky's friend and teammate from the first time they met at Susan Price's over in Dayton at Nightsong Kennels. She was covered with very little fur, had leathery skin, and was tied out by herself since she was a fighter. Winter was coming on and Susan was concerned that Tink would be cold. After I saw her photo, I knew she was mine. When she and Spark met, they had a little tussle and after that became friends for life. Tink was known for her spinning and could be a whirling dervish if happy or if it was dinner time. After I brought her home to Lacey, she learned how to be a house dog. She was so smart, and so very pragmatic. She had a spay, which took care of a sick uterus and allowed the hair to come back. After a week, she and Flare had the first of many horrible fights. This first one broke Tink's wrist, requiring an orthopedic specialist. Ha! Tink's story had begun. Lord, those fights were something awful. Boys fight for points, Girls fight to the death, and that is how it was with those two. I wanted Tink to never be tied out again, so when I moved here, I built the yards, and arranged the dog door, so she would have freedom to come and go as she chose. She often was seen patrolling the fence line as she was a sentinel of the first degree. There was something very special about this dog, endearing with great depth. The window sill was packed solid with her medicine and giving her that medicine was a twice daily ritual for many years. With an IBD dog there are strict disciplines to follow and a narrow range of possible foods they can eat. She used to take her pills in scoops of canned Z/D, a prescription diet for hypoallergenic needs. At many critical junctures, Tink would stop eating, concern enough with a normal dog, but frighteningly difficult with this special needs dog. We saved her life with Venison and Sweet Potatoes. Venison came from Stewart's Meat Market and her sweet potatoes from Dave's Market where they were special ordered by the case. She loved that mix for quite some time, but then came the day when she would no longer eat her special dinner. Towards the end, I found a duck based food that she would eat, but we would have to stuff those pills down her throat. Those pills that saved her life. The ones, that no longer fill the window sill. Why does that make me so sad? Because that mouth they went in, is no longer here. Nor, do I hear that clicking of her nails as she trundled about the kitchen, licking the floor, always hungry, never satisfied. I have photos of her though, of mighty Tink, in her harness, pulling, and laughing, and grinning as we scooted down the trail. She left me something too, in the spot she always laid in on the deck. I can stand there and feel her, and find that last night, as we looked Northward, and smelled the winds on the other side of the Bridge.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bella and the Sheep

Bella goes to "Yes School", which is perfect for a little, red, woolie Siberian that has never heard the word No. Well, maybe once or twice, but not from me. Bella is one of many Siberians, known collectively as the Sweeties, which were rescued by some good people, from a bad person in Eastern Wa. There were 32 of these Sweeties, youngsters, quite young, that had been kept in atrocious conditions in a hellish place, barely surviving horrendous conditions. Due to the heroic efforts of these good people,including those of SNO-Siberians Needing Owners, these dogs were saved and placed in forever homes. Such a hard beginning makes it very difficult to tell these sweetie pie dogs, NO! This can be problematic, as in, "Oh, look at Bella chewing on the coffee table. Isn't that cute?" Or, "look at Bella chewing a hole in the couch. Isn't that cute?" Our Bella is a foxy lady, sky blue eyes, in a dark red face, surrounded by a halo of long, wooly hair. She is a large red bundle of love and sweet. One big ball of fluff with a plume for a tail. Although, I call her little, she is 55 pounds. But somehow, she just seems little to us, as she has these short, little legs. Most puppies, as they mature into adult dogs, change in their looks, but not Belle Belle. It was just as if she expanded into a bigger version of her puppy self. Think of blowing up a balloon. Bella has a huge personality, she spins until you are dizzy, she has no upper incisors, due to a severe underbite, and Bella has to wear a basket muzzle, when she is outside in the yard, because Bella is a rock eater. Something, you really don't want your dog to do, as this causes you a great deal of pain in the wallet, as each surgery for rock removal takes place. Besides the constant worry of your pal running around with the mask on her face, pretty much defenseless. The first time she ate 3 rocks, I thought it was a fluke, the second time less than a month later, she ate 5 rocks, and I ordered the muzzle, the third time, she slipped outside without a muzzle and within 10 seconds , 4 more rocks had slid down her gullet. These rocks are 2-3 inches in diameter. I have other dogs here that eat the pea gravel which passes through, but these big rocks are dangerous. Bella is all Siberian bitch, loving a good brawl, and very bossy. She whams that muzzle around, poking and punching in her own form of roughhousing. Bella must be watched carefully, never allowed to be outside,where she always wears her muzzle, without supervision, and never placed in a situation where she would not be able to defend herself. She lets me know when she wants it removed by rubbing it vigorously on the couch or on my leg or face..ouch..if I am lying down. Bella is studying to be a companion dog for me on my visits as an Animal Assisted Activities volunteer at Providence/St. Peters Hospital in Olympia, WA. Aurora began that training with me, but it was determined she needed some maturity. Aurora went to Military School, that is, old school pinch collar and command training, which was held at a very good facility. I am the weakest link there. Aurora did well. As previously mentioned, Bella goes to Yes School; yes, treat, yes, treat, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Bella is not learning her lessons very quickly, as she is not food driven, and she is much more interested in the Sheep at Fido's Farm where we train in Olympia. Bella does well in my basement where there are little or no distractions, other than the Christmas decorations, which is another story as why the basement is so empty. Think of an indoor swimming pool.

Fido's Farm is loaded with sheep, and sheep dogs. Every field has Border Collies, Aussies, and many sheep engaged in their particular form of work. That is the dogs are working. Maybe the sheep are working also, at how to avoid the dogs and how to practice Sheep Mesmerism, which involves having each individual member of the herd, practicing Watch Me at the exact same moment. The dogs practice chase, down, dart about, chase, down, dart about, as they practice their own form of Sheep Mesmerism. Truly amazing to watch sheep dogs work. I love to watch any working dog, doing their job. Last Sunday, besides being hot, me being sick, and Bella not wanting hot dog treats, there was the additional distraction of The Sheep. One lone individual, it stood in the next field over, large wads of wool hanging off of it, smelling very sheepish, and doing sheep things, like eating grass. In Yes School, there are words like threshold, behavior chains, and loading, but to Bella there was only Sheep. Two of the other dogs in class; one a Border Collie and one a Lab mix, were fixed attentively on their Mistresses, who happen to be friends of mine. The dogs were sit staying on their mat, down staying on their mat, recalling, saying hi politely, while Bella was attentively practicing Watch Me on the Sheep. The instructor thinks this is not a good idea. I think that Bella likes Sheep. It is wooly like her, has blowout like her, is tubelike in shape like her. I do not look like that at all. Food bits do not compete with Sheep. Siberian world vs Border Collie world. I said to my friend, "Sadie is not interested in Sheep."" Oh, but she is," was the reply. Okay then, I thought. Obviously, there is something else going on here. A good On By would take care of this on the trail, but on a hot day in a green field, my little Bella's blue eyes were not shifting from their fixed stare on The Sheep. Maybe she would prefer lamb treats.

One more thing, when I am told that an area is completely fenced, I do not believe it. I have Siberians. Completely fenced means hot wire, top and bottom. Sure enough, when released from the leash, where did my little Siberian go,but to the gate, specifically the hole under the gate. When that was blocked, she jumped on the gate, nearly getting to the Sheep, except for my lumbering, scramble to get there first. I tied the gate shut with the leash, no longer attached to Bella, so then she went to every other gate. Then she peed in the little cooling off pool. Yes, Bella, yes. No worries, we will be a great therapy team, assuming they don't have Sheep there.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Kwan Yin's Garden or How Tink Found Her Howl

Tink is a quiet dog. She seldom makes a noise, but her presence is strong. Her repertoire includes a quick, sharp bark that means feed me NOW; a yelp when poked at the vet; and the scary, horrible, growly, snarly sounds of Tink fighting. Tink was the worst fighter here about a hundred years ago. She even had a little scuffle a week or so ago, but she was lying down and hypnotized Maggie to come over and engage in face biting.

Outside, in the house dog yard, I have a small fish pond, built by the former owner, which I keep covered with two cyclone fence gates to prevent Bella and Daisy from fishing. This pond abuts Kwan Yin's garden. Kwan Yin is the Goddess of Compassion, and one of my favorites. She does not ask much, but responds when her name is called. A good lesson for all of us in dealing out kindness. She sits in my little garden beside the pond. Her gifts are many, one being her healing waters or sacred dew. Kwan Yin's garden had suffered from dog digging, weather, dog digging, weeds, and dog digging. I was working on cleaning things up, planting some lavender, finding the pretty colored stones and rocks which line the little creek bed to the pond, and decided to remove the gates so I could better straighten things up and reset the rocks which form the border. I did not finish the job that day, so I left the gates off the pond that night. Later, after putting all the dogs to bed, except for the few that get to stay out at all times, I slowly went to put myself to rest, saddened by the thought of the impending passing of Willy. Immediately, after lying down with a few cats, I heard a noise below my bedroom, which overlooks the deck, facing north towards the river. I did not recognize the sound, and then it came again. This time I knew it as a howl, but which dog? I have 25 dogs here and I know each of their voices as one would know their child's cry. Who was that? My first thought was that wildlife was nearby, causing one of the dogs to make an unusual sound. The second thought was that a neighbor's dog was in the yard. How was that possible? One is not always rational at 2AM. I hurried downstairs, peered out the sliders and saw Daisy, the little, white Seppala ghost dog peering over the deck. What? Was Daisy making that sound? Again, my mind was not working well. Daisy is debarked and her howl is a ghostly whisper. Rummaging around in the dryer, I found something to put on, and ventured outside at a run. As I came out on the deck, and looked over into the pond, I recognized that dark body and head. TinkerBelle! She must have been out patrolling, not seen the dark water and plunged in the pool. She did not have the strength to pull herself out, but was not in any immediate danger nor did she seem overly stressed. TinkerBelle was my mysterious howler. No wonder I did not recognize the howl. It had never been sounded before. Amazing, astounding, unbelievable! Tink had found her voice. Tink had her feet up on the edge of the garden and was standing on the rocks in the pond. I pulled her out, brought the now energized, old lady into the house and dried her off. She was spinning like days of old, whirling and jumping about. She had gone on an Adventure and found her voice. Get me out, that howl spoke. Sue, come get me out of here! It took Tink falling into a goldfish pond to find her howl, and it only took 13 years. Kwan Yin was watching over my gentle, little dog, and provided a healing bath and a voice. It might take a while, but do not give up hope, for one day you too, may find your Howl.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Willy, a Stargazer cat

Another friend of ours is standing on the Bridge; Willy the Cat, Will-cat, Chowder. Nearly 17 years old with Lymphoma, which is progressing rapidly. When first diagnosed last November, Willy went to Olympia Veterinary Cancer Clinic where he was treated with love and chemotherapy drugs for several months by Dr. Lisa Parshley and her wonderful staff. We are very lucky to have an oncologist vet in Olytown, as otherwise there would be multiple monthly trips to Tacoma or Seattle. Willy went into remission almost immediately, but the cancer returned once, twice, and then thrice, which is this moment. He is eating constantly, unfortunately, the cancer gets all the calories. Today he has had some hugs and some Tramadol and he is resting now. Will-cat's best friend is Will-son, who happens to be my son. The last few months, Willy has spent most of his time in Will's room, laying on the pillow, or the chair, watching TV with Will or if not in the room, but instead in the cat room, meowing to return to his personal heaven. Will-son spotted Will-cat 9 years ago on a trip to Mt. View, to visit one of our other cats. I believe it was Ziggy, the grumpy Persian, who had endured some procedure or another and was now tormenting the staff. Will-cat was perched up on a shelf, staring at Will with his large, round, yellow eyes. Willy is an American Shorthair and is about as cute as they come. His former owner had brought him in for a dental and never returned. Will, my son, informed me that we were bringing him home, and so we did. The bonding of the two Will's began. My son was about to celebrate his 13th coming of age birthday, so that became Will-cat's birthday also. For many years the two friends have enjoyed each others company, but now that is coming to an end. Never long enough, as our vet has said. I repeat, never long en0ugh...