speaking of dogs

It’s Yoshi’s birthday today. He would have been 12. I’ve been thinking of him a lot the last couple of weeks — Greg makes me a calendar every year for Christmas with some of the pictures he’s taken over the year, and one of September’s pictures is of Yoshi sunbathing on our patio. The calendar is in our kitchen, so I see it every day. Hence the frequent thoughts. When I flipped the page to September and saw Yoshi, I couldn’t help but think that he was alive when Greg put the picture in there. That said, time does have an amazing ability to heal. I obviously miss him still, but the ache isn’t nearly as strong.

We have had the pleasure of dog-sitting two dogs over the summer — one for about 10 days and the other for three weeks. It was lovely having a canine presence in the house, and I know Greg and I will be able to heal a bit more once we get another dog. The problem is, I cannot imagine having a puppy right now. Not with a two-year-old and a four-year-old. I know it’s doable, but given the choice, I choose not to do it.

The other obvious option would be to adopt an adult dog again. This is more appealing to me than getting a puppy, and given the right dog I’d adopt him/her today. The problem is I am not quite ready to start looking.

And so we remain dogless, for now. I am half hoping fate will intervene and the right dog will land in our laps. And if that doesn’t happen, then I’ll start searching, when I’m ready.

my reinitiation to thetis lake

Yesterday I went for a run at Thetis Lake — my first visit there since before Yoshi died. This was my favourite place to take Yosh, and we logged a lot of hours there. I had been dreading going, and I wasn’t going to go until I was good and ready.

I didn’t go alone. We are taking care of Digger for a couple of weeks, and I took him and a small part of Yoshi. Before Yoshi died Greg expressed his wish to have his ashes returned to us. I am not sure I would have done this had I been on my own, but I didn’t have any strong objections, so I agreed. A couple of weeks after he died we got the ashes back from the vet. In an urn, of all things. We promptly put them in the basement in a closet as we were not ready to deal with them. But we did talk about some of the things we wanted to do with them, and one of the things I wanted was to bring some out to Thetis.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this — I didn’t really want to go alone, yet I didn’t want to go with anyone. Any humans, that is. But as I was falling asleep one night earlier this week, I suddenly thought: Digger. He’d be perfect company.

So off we went, Digger running ahead of me and a small bag of Yoshi’s ashes in my hand. I knew exactly where I was going to leave the ashes. On Trillium trail there is a rock outcrop that Yoshi loved to jump off (and Digger too). I planned to throw some in the lake and leave some on the shoreline. I did most of my run before getting to this spot, and it was a good run. I didn’t think about Yoshi much, I just enjoyed the run and Digger’s company. Although a couple of times I let myself imagine that I was running with both dogs, and Yoshi was off running in the bush, as he often did.

When we got to the spot, I threw a few ashes in the lake and then got distracted as Digger went crazy looking for a stick. I helped him find one, smiling to myself at the interruption, and then grabbed another handful, threw them in the lake along with the stick and whispered to Digger to go in and join him. And he did. He jumped right in the middle of the ashes, and went for one more swim with his buddy. I put a few more on the shoreline and then I just stood there for a few minutes. I told Yoshi I loved and missed him, and then continued on my run. It was then I discovered you can’t run and cry at the same time, so I walked for a bit and had a good cry.

I had a few more ashes left and I was just going to bring them back to the house, but then I saw one of the side trails that Yoshi loved to go on, so I sprinkled some at the entrance and just stood there imagining him running through the bush. I could almost hear him. I collected myself and then finished my run with Digger.

It was exactly what I wanted to do, without really realizing that until I was done. It seemed fitting to have Digger with me, and now that I’m through the hurdle of the “first time back”, it will be easier to go again.

Thank you Digger — you were my rock.

it’s getting easier, but…

I’m struck every day by how much a part of our life Yoshi was. I’m constantly doing things or seeing things that remind me of him. Even stuff like going to bed at night. We had a nightly ritual of Greg sending him out for a pee, one of us moving his bed into the kitchen and then locking him up in there so he wouldn’t sleep on the furniture or wake us up with his click clacking of nails on the hardwood. It still feels a bit strange to go to bed without doing all that. And when I leave the house I start to do a mental check to make sure everything is dog-proofed, and then I stop myself.

Today I went for a run and realized that my long-standing claim of loving to run by myself is not true. I love to run with my dog. It’s just not the same without him.

Most of these painful reminders will continue to ease with time, but some of them (like running alone) won’t really ease until we get another dog. Greg and I have both said we’re going to wait until the kids are older, as we will be the first to admit that, despite the loss, not having a dog is more practical than having one. But I’m starting to think that “older” is maybe not as old as I originally thought. I really miss the canine company.

In Loving Memory Of Yoshi: September 17, 1998 – March 29, 2010

In early 2001 I lost two dogs in a divorce. It was a brutal decision for me not to pursue some sort of “custody” arrangement, but given that they were not children and perfectly happy in their current environment, I decided my mental health was more important. So I moved on, knowing I would get another dog when I was ready. Six months later, I was ready. I was living (sort of) on my own, renting a house where I was allowed to have a dog, and my new boyfriend (now husband) was game.

One of the dogs I’d lost was Sylvie, a German Shorthaired Pointer that we’d raised from puppyhood. I loved her to bits, and since I felt a bit cheated out of owning a GSP, I decided to see about getting another one. Greg was a bit leery as Sylvie was a handful and full of energy, but he still was behind me. The first thing I did was phone the breeder where we got Sylvie from to see if she had any puppies available. She did, but she also mentioned that she had a three-year-old from Sylvie’s litter that she’d shown, and was now looking for a good home for him. I remember her saying on the phone that he was “very quiet for a Pointer”.

I’d adopted two adult dogs before, and in both cases there were no bonding issues. And the idea of not going through puppyhood again was very appealing, so I decided to go for it. It helped as well that the dog was from Sylvie’s litter. I fully admit that I was attempting to fill the huge hole that her absence had caused, and that connection meant a lot to me.

So into our lives entered Yoshi. It was my decision to get a dog, my decision to pick this specific one, and it was me and my mum who went to get him, but from day one he entered Greg’s heart as well as mine. I don’t remember ever feeling that he was just my dog, not Greg’s.

My mum and I drove to Squamish to get him, and we both have clear memories of the drive back, with Yoshi in the back seat of my mum’s Honda Civic, inching closer and closer to us until eventually he was pretty much in the front, lying across the emergency break, wedged between us. I also remember leaving the breeder’s house, leaning down to put my shoes on, with Yoshi’s snout right in my face. The breeder mentioned that this was something Yoshi “did”. And boy, did he ever.

The plan was to have Yoshi for the month of November on trial, and if everything worked out we’d keep him. He had grown up in the bush, and apart from the dog shows he was in, he spent his time running freely on an acreage near the Squamish River. It was quickly apparent to us that he was not used to city life. So during the first couple of weeks we introduced him to as much as we could. Big trucks, buses, umbrellas, other dogs…we took him everywhere. And he was scared of everything. I remember thinking that we were not going to be keeping this dog, he was too skittish. But then he started to get used to things, and get used to Greg and I. And by the end of November I don’t think there was any question in Greg’s or my mind. This dog was ours.

And so it began. What followed was eight and a half years of true companionship. He was my faithful running partner and my company on countless walks through the woods. He was our greeter, our plastics chewer, our counter surfer, our in-your-face-as-you-put-your-shoes-on dog. And just over a week ago, in the wee hours of a rainy Monday morning, we made the decision to put him down. He had stopped eating and stopped drinking, and we knew it was time for him to go.

I miss him terribly. I miss the clack, clack of his claws on the hardwood floor in the mornings as he let us know it was time to eat. I miss his quiet snoring in the evenings. I miss petting his silky ears. I miss his presence in our household. He filled a hole for me but he’s left an even bigger one behind.

I know that I will fall in love with another dog. But Yoshi will always hold a special place in my heart. He helped me heal from a bitter breakup, and he was one of the founding members of what is now the Fox family. He was around for a pretty amazing time in my life. Good bye, my sweet pup. I love you very much.

Yoshi

Almost six years ago, Yoshi was diagnosed with spondylosis. At the time, one of my main worries was that Greg and I were going to eventually have to come to a decision to end Yoshi’s life based on how crippled he became. I was able to bury that worry for a number of years, as we were able to modify his exercise routine to keep him relatively pain free. We stopped retrieving with him and Greg stopped mountain biking with him. We were a bit sad about that, but it helped a lot and he’s remained pretty active. Pharmaceuticals helped as well.

This past fall we noticed he seemed to be getting sore again. We took him into the vet to get him checked out and decided to try another pain medication — one that has seen much success. Unfortunately it didn’t work for him, and we took him off it. He seemed okay for a bit but then started to decline more. We took him in again and when the vet examined him she found that his front legs seemed to be affected as well. Up until then it had just been his rear legs. This likely meant that his neck was involved, which would indicate further neurological issues, not just the spondylosis. She suggested prednisone. It seemed to be helping. One Sunday recently he and I were out for a walk in Mt. Doug Park and I came back and remarked to Greg how spry Yoshi had looked.

Then early last week we woke up to a whole lot of moaning, and Yoshi could not stand by himself. We helped him up and he was very shaky. We hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary in the previous days, so we weren’t sure what was going on. Another trip to the vet resulted in a theory that he’d actually hurt his neck somehow. The vet wanted us to keep him as immobile as possible, and she put him on two more pain meds. He had an x-ray on Friday which wasn’t all that conclusive, but it indicated that the problem was unlikely to be an injury but rather further degeneration of his spine. She showed me the films and his spine is a mess.

So…where does this leave us? We’re going to play around with the pain meds to see if we can get the pain under control. In the meantime he’s still being kept as quiet as possible in order to prevent him from injuring himself. He still has trouble getting up and down, but it’s a bit better. And once he’s up he can walk, but he isn’t all that stable, especially on a slippery surface (like our whole house).

The vet has taken him off one of the pain meds, a muscle relaxant, to see if it was maybe making him too wobbly. I will hopefully talk to her Friday about the next step, but I suspect it’s going to be upping the dose of the other pain med, Gabapentin. I’m crossing my fingers, and I’m more hopeful that I was last week as he seems a bit better, but when I look at him lying on his bed, eyes wide open, not moving, or when I hear him moan as he tries to get up, my heart wrenches.

How do you know when enough is enough? We aren’t at that point yet, but we can’t continue indefinitely like this. I want to ask him if this is okay…lying around all day and getting up only to pee. Is this better than the alternative?

my faithful running partner

I went for a great run on Saturday at Beaver Lake. I ran a bit longer than usual, and the whole run felt fantastic. As usual, I had my trusty pointer with me. He had great fun as well, but he paid for it later. He was so sore on Sunday that he could barely stand. He fell a few times on the tile floor, and fell down the stairs once. It was awful to see.

He was diagnosed with arthritis in his spine about three years ago now, and it’s definitely worsened over the last six months. He’s on anti-inflammatories, but we’ve been a bit lax about giving them to him. We’ll be giving them to him regularly from now on.

He stopped mountain biking with Greg before he was diagnosed, as he just couldn’t keep up. It’s going to be a sad day when he can’t run with me anymore. I love watching him out there, and I love the silent company (for my one reader who runs with me…I love your company as well, don’t worry :)).

He doesn’t know how to take it easy, and it’s hard to know what’s best for him — enforce restricted activity or let him have his fun. The latter will cause him more pain, but restricting his activity is not the greatest option for him either. Nor for us, for that matter.

On a more positive note, he ran with me again this morning at Macaulay, and he seems fine today. Hopefully we’ll get a few more years out of him yet.

that was a $300 mistake

I’m getting good at filing ICBC claims. No, I didn’t run into another post. This one was Yoshi’s fault.

I went for a run this morning, with Yoshi, and then afterward I swung by the house to pick up the rest of the family and we headed to the rec center to watch a friend’s hockey game. We left Yoshi in the car instead of dropping him off at the house, as he usually prefers to hang out in the car instead of being left alone in the house.

We parked behind the arena. Which is beside a big soccer field. And it’s Saturday. So people were playing soccer. And there were referees. With whistles. And they were blowing them. And Yoshi’s noise sensitivities have gotten way worse over the past year. Bad, bad combination.

We got back to the car after being gone for an hour. I opened the back door to put the stroller in, and my mouth dropped in horror. The back of our seats were trashed. And I mean seeing the metal innards, stuffing and fabric everywhere trashed.

My first thought was, oh crap, we’re never going to be able to leave the dog in the car again. But then we made the connection to the whistles. The poor dog was doing his darnedest to get away from the whistles, which meant trying to get to the front of the car. Thankfully he didn’t make it, because who knows what the rest of the car would have looked like. We felt terrible. There was even blood on some of the stuffing, so he definitely was chewing hard.

Lesson learned.

best laid plans

This morning I started a new mum and babe yoga session. This time round I’m taking the class at the local rec centre so I can walk there.

I woke up to some sun, so I decided to time everything so I could take Yoshi for a walk first, with Amy, and then drop him off at home and head to the rec centre. I figured the timing would be good for Amy to get at least an hour of sleeping in, and I’d get Yoshi walked as well.

I got everything ready, which included grabbing poop bags, stroller set up, child fed, child changed, child in jacket and hat, supplies ready for yoga, me showered, me dressed, Yoshi collared up, etc. About five minutes before I left I noticed it was raining, but there was sun out as well, and it didn’t look too bad.

I left the house a bit later than planned, but still with enough time to get Yoshi walked first. By this time it was pouring. I got out the rain cover for the stroller and quickly changed my jacket, and stayed the course. For all of three minutes. I got about 200 feet down the road and when the wind whipped the rain cover off the stroller I decided to abandon ship.

I still needed to give Amy a nap, though, and by this time I only had about 45 minutes before yoga started. I couldn’t really nap her at home because I’d be waking her up 30 minutes in.

So what did I do? Amy and I piled into the car and we went to Starbucks. She had a sleep and I had a chai. So no exercise for the dog, no exercise for me, money spent that wouldn’t have been spent with the original plan, and I drove to the rec centre.

I’m hoping for better luck next week.

i can just hear the conversation that must of gone on in his head

Ahhh…it’s nice to be back in the car after a good walk. Hmm…I’m pretty sore, maybe I’ll just shift around a bit.

Oh crap, the stroller just fell over on me. Stupid contraption, why can’t they put it in the front? Oh well, if I lie really still it won’t hurt me, and I’m sure one of them will help me soon.

Oh good, we’re parking. One of them will get me fixed up.

[Car doors open and shut, voices fade into the distance.]

Hello? Excuse me? Can someone help me? The stroller’s fallen and I can’t get up.

They must just be stopping for a minute. They’ll be back soon.

Hmm…it’s been a while, maybe if I just move this leg like this, this one this way, and this one this way…there, I’m free! Crap, but where do I lie down now?

Where the hell did they go? Hello? Hello?

Poor neglected pooch.

he’s no longer in the will

Last night Greg and I lay in bed for a bit discussing this blogging project of mine, and how I would go about posting something worthwhile (notice I didn’t say worth reading) every day in November. We talked a bit about various themes which might make coming up with content easier, but in the end I decided that my first post would be about figuring out what my goals were for this project, and then hopefully that would help give me some direction.

Our DAMN DOG trumped that idea. Our DAMN DOG and the brutal night we just had. Either Langley doesn’t have a ban on firecrackers or Langleyites just don’t follow the rules as well as Victorians. For those of you who don’t know, our DAMN DOG hates firecrackers. His reaction is to get as close to you as possible as he trembles and pants in fear.

The firecrackers started up before we went to bed, so we decided to take Yoshi into our room with us. We would have had to deal with him trying his best to get to us anyway — scratching down doors, pushing down baby gates, scrambling over furniture — so this seemed like the best option.

He was okay for a bit, but the noise started to get worse and he alternated between Greg’s side of the bed (which is less than a foot away from the wall) and mine (which is by the closet door that would bang loudly when he tried to turn around) and generally was a huge pain-in-the-ass. He’d press his wet nose against us, try to climb on the bed, and pant. We both tried lying on the floor with him, but that didn’t work.

I could go on and on about that DAMN DOG and the hours of sleeplessness he just caused us, but that’d be a really long post. Suffice it to say that at 2:30 AM the firecrackers were still going off.

And Amy? She was up every two hours last night. The icing on the cake.