Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Picking Up the Pieces

Silver and Sam

That photo was the source of the avatar I've used everywhere for nearly two years. It's being retired--replaced with a photo of Silver.

For now, Silver is an only dog. She's enjoying longer walks than we used to take when Sam was around. She's adjusting to the idea of only two meals a day instead of the four meals she and Sam got when he needed to take lots of pills, but I think she misses having someone else's food to steal. She's sticking close to me. She doesn't seem to miss Sam (Sam never missed Jacey or Oreo, either), so that makes things a little easier. She thinks she should get to come with me every time I go out--as though she only stayed home in the past to keep Sam company.

She went to her obedience lesson last Saturday. She's minutely better about working on things in class, but she'd still rather stand there and watch to see what the other dogs are doing. We've worked some at home, and she's getting more reliable about down, although stay is still something she does only when she's too lazy to get up right that second.

But she's not dumb. She wants to run to the door when I go out to get groceries from the car. I tell her to lie down on the beds in the living room, and she tries to sneak to the door behind my back. So I stand there next to her crate and say, "Kennel up or go to bed," pointing in the appropriate directions. She runs to the living room and hunkers down on a bed, ready to cling to it and protest if I insist on the crate. At least that means I can come and go with groceries and not have to worry about her trying to sneak out. (Sam never wanted to follow me to the car. He wanted me to go to the car while he checked out the contents of the bag I'd just brought in. He'd usually steal something and carry it to his bed in the living room. Ben & Jerry's Dublin Mudslide was a favorite.)

31 July 2002: Sam's adoption photo. He was 2 years, 2 months old.

Silver eventually will get a new sibling. At present, I'm thinking I don't want another two-year-old (as Sam was when I got him); if I get a dog that lives another 10 years, I'll be in my 70s, and that'll be a little old lady trying to care for a big old dog. It might be feasible if the dog is smaller than Sam (who, at 65 pounds, was a small boy), but I just can't cope right now with a crazy young male dog. (And there's no telling what Silver would do to a male dog with more energy but less sense than Sam.) But before I adopt another dog, I want to get my finances in better shape, so maybe I'll just foster for a while. We don't take foster dogs to meet-and-greets and other events because it can be stressful for them; also, their just-off-the-track behavior might be unpredictable; and while they're still sporting track coats (and track behavior), they don't always show to the best advantage to eventual adopters. So a shy, happy-to-stay-home foster might be perfect for us; Silver would still get to do all the meet-and-greets that she enjoys, and I could try to get my finances straightened out while caring for a dog whose vet bills would be SEGA's responsibility. (When I adopt again, I want to be sure I can afford vet insurance.)

December 2003: Crazy young Sam was 3

Before I bring home a track-fresh dog, I'd need to do some dog-proofing. The last track-fresh dog I brought home was Jacey in 2006. Since then, I've gotten more casual about items I leave out based on what my dogs have been interested in. Sam never cared about my knitting or yarn. Silver has only liked wool yarns, and she's never messed with a project on the needles--wool or not. I can't count on the same behavior with another dog, so I need to straighten things and rearrange some yarn storage. And when you foster, you're expected to be more careful of how you handle a foster dog (and your own): don't let a foster on the furniture or your bed for fear of teaching a behavior that the eventual owner will have to correct. And if the foster and your dog(s) are out of the crate, they all should be muzzled to prevent any snarkiness from escalating to bloodshed. I've got the crate Silver doesn't want to go in, and I think I'd also set up an ex-pen so that the foster could be in the pen in the living room with Silver and me, but the dogs could be separated by the pen and thus not need muzzles very often. And I think I'd want to move the crate from the breakfast room to the dining room, so a crated dog could see Silver and me in the living room. Lots of stuff to consider and work out. SEGA is getting in 10 dogs this Saturday. I'll meet them when I help bathe the new arrivals at the kennel. But new arrivals will need neuter/spay surgery and other vetting before they're ready to head to a foster home, so I have time to do some work around here. And I don't feel the urge to rush into getting another dog right away. It's pleasant to realize I could take Silver and go someplace for the day and not have to worry about a dog at home needing food or a potty break.

December 2003: Watching for squirrels. And cats.

And another thing to organize around here is the dogs' ashes. I got three containers yesterday at Michael's. When Oreo died, I neatly stored her ashes, muzzle, collar, photos, notes, etc., on the bookshelf in the dining room. When Jacey died, I put her stuff on the shelf, but I never organized things, or made a CD of her photos, or anything like that; after fighting to save her over four days at the ER, I didn't want to deal with the results, and Silver came here the day after Jacey died, so I could concentrate on her and just leave Jacey's stuff alone. But now Sam's ashes are home, and I need to deal with that stuff. I got a case--it looks like a small, theatrical suitcase, black with white slogans on the side, and the slogan on the front is "DANCE LIKE NOBODY'S WATCHING"--and it's large enough to hold Sam's ashes, his old, beaten-up muzzle (I had to get a new one earlier this year, but I kept the old one), collars and tags, photos, and more than 10 years' worth of vet paperwork. The boxes for Jacey and Oreo are smaller and prettier. They don't all match each other: the dogs were all very different. I need to sit and organize a CD of Sam's photos. I also want to print condolence messages to PDFs and save them on the CD as well. There's a mountain of vet paperwork in the corner of a kitchen counter; the paperwork goes back at least through Jacey's days because it usually was easier to just add papers to the pile, rather than try to straighten things out. I'll go through all of that, too, and maybe make a CD of Jacey's photos. I can get prints of some favorite photos and get a couple of those little 4 x 6 albums to go in the boxes with the ashes.

Sam_By Amy
21 June 2006: Sam (by Amy Romanczuk)

(My sister has orders about what to do with the ashes when I die. I promised the dogs we'd be together forever. I prefer cremation for myself, and all the ashes can just be combined at the end. After that--well it seems my sister (and my BIL) and I are of one mind about disposing of ashes. Bury us somewhere, throw us into the wind, toss us on the water. We're not fussy about how or where.)

27 August 2011: A few days after Jacey died and Silver came home

Today is the first day I haven't burst into tears over Sam. It's been those frustrated, temper-tantrum sort of tears, where I bang my fist into the pillow and wail, "I want my Sam!" The tears spring up all of a sudden.

6 December 2006: Sam's drooling. I said the word "Cookies!"

Sam had a whole routine he followed: He'd wake up from a nap, struggle to his feet, wobble until he got his balance, then smoothly stretch (as if he hadn't just been wobbling and about to fall). Then he'd go from the living room to the dining room to get a drink. He'd shuffle across the dining room--it's a hard floor and I think he was worried about keeping his footing if he moved too fast, and sometimes he'd knuckle a back foot, so just sliding his feet across the floor was safer--he'd shuffle over to his empty food dish and give it a lick. Then he'd move into the kitchen, which is long and narrow, with doorways at either end. He'd move slowly, checking the floor and the counters for spills or forgotten food (although it's been years since I was silly enough to leave food on the counters). At the far end of the kitchen, there are folding doors to the closet that houses the water heater and the kitchen trash can. He'd poke those doors until they opened (they squeaked, which is how I knew what he was up to), stick his head in and flip up the lid on the trash can. He'd root around in the can, licking anything that looked promising. Then he'd wander out that end of the kitchen into the breakfast room, shuffle through there, into the foyer, down the hallway, and back onto the carpet in the living room, where he'd come settle on a bed in front of the box fan. He's done this over and over for the past couple of years--every day and often during the night. So every time I hear a noise from the front of the condo--the AC switching on, or someone outside making a noise--I look toward the foyer to see if it's my boy coming back to the living room. When I realize it isn't him--isn't ever going to be him again--it's hard to take.

9 November 2009: I'd let him lick the nearly empty jar--until he started trying to eat it.

But picking up the pieces means getting back to normal. I've done a minor bit of freelancing (and I need to invoice my big client so I can bank a little money). I've started knitting a baby blanket for some friends expecting their first (a girl) in mid-September (one month!). I'd like to enter the blanket in the North Georgia State Fair, and the entry deadline is about mid-September, too. (The fair is 19-29 September.) Yesterday, on the same trip to Acworth to pick up Sam's ashes, I stopped at an LYS in Acworth and bought a lot of cotton yarn from their half-off bin. It should make some nice chemo caps for Halos of Hope. I also bought some good wool Monday at a different LYS; that will make two hats for Hats for Sailors. Lots of hat knitting after the fair; then Christmas knitting to do.

12 November 2011

Meanwhile, Silver has obedience classes the remaining Saturdays of this month. SEGA has new dogs arriving Saturday. Football season for the Pope High School Greyhounds will kick off 30 August with an away game; their first home game (greyhounds invited) will be on 6 September. There are greyhound events of one sort or another every weekend in September and October.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Saying good-bye to Sam (Stat K Sam -- 5/10/2000 - 8/8/2013)

I said goodbye to my wonderful boy this morning.

Holding Mom's hand...

Sam lived with me for 10 years, 10 months, and 2 days. He has slept at my side every one of those nights. (Tonight is going to suck.)

Oreo & Sam
Oreo & Sam

He's made me laugh every single day. He was a stubborn, single-minded, high-prey, food motivated, goofy doofus. He's driven two of three housemates crazy. Only Silver managed to keep him in line.

And Sam trumps Jacey with his tail
Jacey & Sam

Sam's been on meds for years. He had arthritis and some slightly herniated disks, LS, LP, and was starting to have kidney issues. He's been taking gabapentin, tramadol, methocarbamol, metronidazole, doxepin, thyroxine, and prilosec, in addition to glucosamine, fish oil, and probiotics. And he was remarkably patient about taking a mouthful of pills after every meal, four times a day.

Sam 0503
Sam, in the days before arthritis and LS

But the pills were no longer controlling the pain, and there were episodes of panting triggered by pain. He went to the vet Monday for a shot of dexamethasone to see if that would help with the pain in his back. The shot gave him good results on his legs--Sam wasn't having as much trouble getting his legs under him when he needed to stand up--but it didn't help with the pain, and it only helped his legs for two days. He was maxed out on pain meds, but still in pain, and he didn't deserve that. I knew I needed to let him go.

Stalking peanut butter crackers

And we were able to time this right: he still loved his food and his trips outside, so we didn't wait so long that he was miserable. But this morning, his legs gave out on a very short walk, so his body was letting him down, even if we'd been able to find another painkiller that worked. He just had too many things wrong at once.

A Pair of Heads
Sam's most famous photograph, which has shown up on lots of websites

I made the appointment with his vet. On the way, we stopped at McDonald's and I got him the current "2 for $3" special--two sausage and egg biscuits. I'd never given him sausage before. I sat in the backseat with him in the vet's parking lot, and Sam ate every crumb--sausage, eggs, and biscuits.

Jacey's last pictures were sad: she felt so bad, and I hate to look at those photos.
Sam's last pictures are triumphant: "Food! I've got food!"

I got him into the vet's office, and once he was able to get his legs back under himself, he started surfing the countertops, looking for cookies, and he stuck that long nose into the trash can. By the time his vet came in, Sam was ready to lie down in his favorite sphinx pose. After the sedative, he put his head down on his forelegs and fell asleep. He didn't stir when the vet gave him the final shot. I cried--and so did Sam's vet. "He was such a goofy boy," the vet said.


I'm going to miss you, Boo-boo.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Lesson 2b--Back to Basics

An earlier post that Silver was improving in the obedience department was wishful thinking.

Silver Flirts

She's still adorable and charming as all get-out, but when we practice the obedience lesson--and we practice twice a day--she clearly doesn't get it and just stands there. She looks off in the distance in the classic I know you want me to do something but I don't know what it is so I'll just stand here until you get a better idea attitude.

I've emailed her instructor. Jen has an agility competition with her dogs this weekend, so I'm not expecting to hear from her right away. Meanwhile, Silver and I will do the Marietta Farmer's Market Meet & Greet tomorrow: she knows how to work a crowd.

I think there's probably a parent-teacher conference in my future next week.

Meanwhile, folks, don't forget that there's an auction to benefit the adoption efforts of SEGA over here.