Saying farewell to our sweet Dream…

I’m writing this post on Thursday afternoon because I know by Saturday I won’t be able to type out the words.  Even now my eyes are brimming with tears and my throat is tight.  I’ve been choking on emotions for the past three days already, and I know the next several will be even more difficult.   But our decision has been made.  It has been an agonizing one, I can assure you.  Sam and I have both dreaded this day for months – the day we’d have to make the right decision for our beloved collie, Dream.  The deed has been done and she’s finally at peace and pain-free.

Lounging in the sun - April 2008

I’ve posted before the story of how we rescued Dream from a horrid puppy mill while we were living in Maine.  That was nearly seven years ago, and I can say that she’s been the best dog we’ve ever owned.  In a way it feels like we’ve owned her her whole life, and in her mind I believe that’s true.  Certainly the last half of her life has been far superior to the first half and I’m so glad that dogs only live in the moment.

There are so many of Sam and I’s memories as a couple that include this girl.  We’ve taken countless walks with her.  We’ve watched her tear headlong through the woods of our Maine house – searching for skunks and running her legs off in utter glee.  Sam and I were certain she’d run head first into a tree, but she never did.  We’ve taken her with us on vacations.  We’ve gone hunting and snowshoeing with her.  We’ve put her on our Christmas parade float.  We’ve even taken her to the beach to chase seagulls and play in the waves of the Atlantic, which was probably the best day of her life.

She’s been an amazing watchdog and protector, but also a constant and loving companion.  She and I have spent many lazy mornings curled up together fighting over the same side of the bed!  And she’s been my ever vigilant security system during those long, lonely nights when Sam was out of town.  A good dog is always better than a gun, at least that’s what I say.

One day, not long after we’d brought Dream home, the UPS man came to our front door.  This was unusual to begin with because he always delivered our packages to the back door – in fact, he’d usually leave them just inside the door – in our mudroom – since we didn’t have to lock our house (it was northern Maine after all!).  But on this day he was ringing our front doorbell.  Sam answered the door and was somewhat shocked to see the UPS man standing there with no package in his hands.  After a moment of awkward silence the UPS man broke into an apology.  It seems that the day before he’d attempted to deliver a package to us, and as usual he was going to place it just inside our back door.  But Dream wasn’t having any of it.  Somehow we’d left the door that connects the main house and the mudroom slightly open, and when Dream heard the UPS man opening the back door she charged at him and tried to bite him.  To her, he was an intruder who definitely didn’t belong there.  The UPS man on the other hand was happy he had on brown pants that day!  And here he was, standing at our front door apologizing for scaring our dog, who, according to him “was just doing what she was supposed to do.”  He informed us from now on that he’d just leave the packages outside the back door as he didn’t want to have to explain to his boss any further requisitions for new trousers.

So many good memories……

Standing guard - fall 2008

Oh how the years have flown by.  Unfortunately, those years were not kind to our girl – especially not this last year.  In truth it has been touch and go with her now for the past several months.  At one point I solicited a fellow dog enthusiast/blogger friend’s opinion on the matter, and her advice has stuck with me and is partially what helped us to make this final decision.  Her advice was for us to pick out Dream’s three absolute favorite things to do, and when she can no longer do two of the three it’s time to start considering the humane alternative.  In this last year we’ve seen her lose the desire and/or ability to partake in all three of these particular things.  So we knew.  It was time.  Honestly we’ve known for a few months now and have just not been able to bring ourselves to make the decision.  Even though I know she’s in a better place now and not in any more pain I still can’t help but let the tears flow freely.  She’s not just a dog.  She was our dog – our Dream – a genuine member of our family…….and I’m going to miss her terribly.


A few thoughts on aging

First and foremost, I think we can all agree that aging really is for the birds. Its one of those little things that really just sneaks up on us before we know what actually happened. I mean, its like you’re going along your merry little way, enjoying life, and then the next thing ya know…**KAPOW** …you get up one morning and look in the mirror and think to yourself, “Who is that old hag staring back at me? I don’t remember inviting her to live here…”

I think dogs think the same way we do. Okay, maybe they don’t actually think about it. But they have to know they’re getting older. Or in the case of our Dream she doesn’t know anything at all anymore. She reminds me of my Gram (who turned 90 this past August). She’s got Alzheimer’s…just like Dream, although we call her’s Dogheimer’s.

We first picked Dream up on a chilly, Maine, late October afternoon. We’d recently become “empty-nesters” with Doug’s departure and Sam and I were both hankerin’ for a canine companion again. We’d lived without a house dog for a couple of years, and while I certainly wasn’t missing the excess dog hairs everywhere I was missing my “living blanket”. We’d seen an add in a local Buy-Swap guide for an adult Smooth Collie for sale. We decided to go out and check her out – not really believing we’d bring her home since neither Sam nor I have ever been keen on collies in general – too bark-y.

As we drove out to the middle of BFE (I’m really not exaggerating here – it was a long drive), we admired the lovely fall landscape all around us. The trees had lost most of their leaves and the late afternoon sunshine was casting long golden shadows onto the forest floor. The days were getting shorter and the nights had become quite chilly, but the sunshine was warm and cheerful and a glorious reminder of God’s beauty to us. We eventually made it to our turnoff and began to wind our way down a gravel road. As we continued to drive the houses quickly became more and more dilapidated and by the time we reached our destination I wasn’t sure there would even be a house there! Eventually we reached the driveway, and as we pulled into a muddy, narrow dooryard we were greeted by a house the likes of which I’ve never seen before….and hope to never see again!

Two ancient trailers had been pushed up together. Parts of the outside were covered in ‘blueboard’ insulation and MDF sheets making it look even more like we’d just stepped off the plane into a South American barrio. The front porch was disconnected from the dwelling and had a pronounced sag in the middle. Just past the house was a soupy, make-shift corral where an incredibly thin and miserable looking horse was standing nearly knee deep in vile sludge, eating moldy hay off a dung pile. Just to the other side of the trailer was a chain link dog kennel where two giant harlequin Great Danes stood at attention. The dogs were beautiful, but considering the conditions they were living in, I wasn’t sure if they were safe.

As we crawled out of our truck (thank goodness we’d brought that instead of the car…we might still be stuck in the mud there) a mangy looking dog ambled over to us. She barked a few times, but didn’t seem aggressive at all. Instead her belly nearly dragged the ground and it looked like she’d just had a litter of pups. Her coat was dull and thin, and her teeth were brown as could be. Her toenails were severely overgrown, and her feet were splayed from years of abuse. She had beautiful tulip ears, but one of them had been torn in half and never stitched together – we found out later that was the outcome of a Great Dane battle. But she was wagging her tail and seemed quite happy. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was our ol’ Dreamer.

As we started around the front of the truck and up to the steps, a haggard looking lady stepped out the front door. Her reddish-brown hair hadn’t seen a comb in days, and I wasn’t sure if she even had indoor plumbing. Her clothes were well worn and dingy, and spattered with what I believe was some kind of baby spit-up as she had a small child balanced on her hip. We told her we’d seen the add in the Buy-Swap guide for a collie and were wondering if the dog was still available. A crooked smile came over her face as she pointed toward the dirty tail-wagger in front of us. Sam and I looked at each other, our surroundings, and then at the poor, pitiful dog in front of us.

The add claimed she was a registered show dog who had points on her (means she’d placed in some dog shows). The add stated that she’d bread show champions. The add bragged that she was an excellent house dog who was affectionate and loved ‘hugs’. The add wanted $200 for her. I was sure this dog wasn’t worth $20 let alone $200. The vet work that would need to be done to spay her, clean her teeth, have her bathed and groomed, get her toenails ground down and who knows what other hidden ailments we’d discover would far exceed $2,000. As we stood pondering the decision, the lady stated that she had been a great dog to them and that the only reason they were getting rid of her was because they were having to feed her trash since they couldn’t afford to buy dog food for her. That was the lynch pin for us – I didn’t care how old, ugly, snaggle-toothed or decrepit she was, she wasn’t going to stay there.

We drove home with the windows down that day. We nearly froze, but Dream sat calmly in between us on the seat with a look of gratitude I’ve never before seen in a dog’s eye. When we got to the base, we stopped in one of the open fields and decided to let her out to go the bathroom before we got to the house – we were hoping to avoid as many accidents there as possible. She hopped casually out of the truck, tail wagging, and followed us around like a shadow. We soon discovered that she was a very sweet natured dog, despite her snarled appearance.

Fortunately, the vet we used was quite familiar with Dream and even thanked us for taking her out of her previous home situation. She informed us that she’d seen Dream on a number of occasions – after each of her 5 litters of pups (the dog was only 6 at the time), and each time she noticed Dream was looking continually worse-for-wear. But she had been a good mother to her babies, despite the horrible living conditions at the house.

It has been 6 years since we overpaid for our sweet girl. Since then we’ve spent more money at the vet’s office on her than we have on any other dog we’ve ever owned. Despite all the promises from her former owner, we never did receive her AKC registration paperwork, although I did look her info up on the AKC website. We never saw any of her ribbons or points certificates, not that we would have continued to show her in the condition she was in. We have since been in contact with her original breeder who also expressed her gratitude for our acquisition. And we think we’ve got the best house dog in the world.

Unfortunately, Dreamer is old now. She has lost all bladder control and is constantly peeing on herself. Her back end continues to get weaker each day – some days it takes her several minutes to work up the strength and balance to get out of her crate in the morning just to go out to the bathroom. She has been bumping into walls for months now, and has even fallen off her chair a few times. I believe she’s had at least one seizure, although a mild one. And she’s fully into Dogheimer’s. Many days she doesn’t know us or recognize her surroundings. And while she never yelps out in pain or has panic attacks, activity isn’t something she enjoys at all. We know it won’t be long before we have to make the decision to have her put to sleep. Its not a decision I’m prepared to make at this time. I’m selfish and I love that smelly, old dog like there’s no tomorrow. I pray every night when I go to bed that she’d die peacefully in her sleep so we wouldn’t have to be the bad guys. I don’t want her to live in pain, but I also don’t want to lose her. She’s a major part of our family unit and I don’t know that I’m ready to live without her.

My poor Wee Squat…

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the phrase “Wee Squat” I’d like for you to meet Iris.

She’s my bi-eyed, bat-eared, spotty, squatty dog. I have lots of nicknames for her, such as Wee Vittie, Stump-o-lina, Tomato Thief, Stumpy MacSquat, Vittie-V, Iris the Viris, and The PoopVac (yes, she’s disgusting…she loves to eat dog poop).

Iris is our Cardigan Welsh corgie and she’s five years old. Sam bought her for me as a Valentine’s Day present in 2005. To this day she’s been the best present I’ve ever received. She is my ‘dream dog’ and she’s lived up to my expectations splendidly. She’s a marvelous watch dog. She’s very comical. She’s a herding dog and loves to nip at your heels and the back of your legs as you’re walking. She’s quite moody at times and gets really grouchy when Guinness won’t leave her alone. She really doesn’t like children and will growl and snap at them if they come too close to her. She’s bossy and short and fat…she kind of reminds me of………well, me if you must know! And I love her more than my laptop.

Today she had to go to the vet though. She wasn’t very happy with me. They poked and prodded and flexed and twisted and walked her all around the office. They weighed her and took her temperature too. And if you’ve ever seen a dog getting its temperature taken you know that they don’t have some fancy-dancy inner-ear thermometer. Nope, they do it the old fashioned way….I think I’d be a little cranky after that too! In the end they had to take some x-rays, and they decided that she is just full of poop. Not really……well, actually she is, but more importantly she is beginning to developing a disease that will cause her hips to luxate – that means to dislocate from the hip socket – it’s akin to hip dysplasia (but not HP). My poor girl.

Fortunately, we’ve caught it in time and we will begin a course of joint health supplements (glucosamine condroitin) and change her diet a bit so she gets more Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. At some point she may have to have medical intervention, but hopefully that will be many years down the road. For the next few weeks while we regulate her diet and manager her pain, it’s plenty of rest and reduced exercise (yeah right…that’s like telling a hyperactive child they have a chance at winning the Quiet Game). And of course I’ll continue to spoil her rotten with lots of extra love and pampering!

Our dearly departed…

I know that I never properly introduced our newest addition to the family – Eli. I apologize.

Trying to look casually away from the camera – he wasn’t much of a ham

He was a sweet dog. Very pretty. He had a kind face. And somewhat smallish ears and a shorter tail than I’m used to. He had one party colored eye, but you could only see the blue when he looked at you a certain way since it was just on the top of his eyeball – like a cerulean splash from a paintbrush. He also loved to take walks and run around the back yard.

What a happy boy…when he was in the yard alone

And he found great pleasure in mimicking what we did – especially in the garden. It was very cute really. If we were harvesting peppers, he’d watch us closely for a few minutes, and the next thing we knew, he was on the other side of of the row and you could see him selectively picking peppers off the plants. Only, he tried to eat them and we were putting them in a big plastic bag. Guess he couldn’t figure that part out!

Running out of the garden

He was a quiet husky, only talking to us at feeding time. He liked cheese and most of the time that was the only way he’d let Sam even pet him is if he baited him with a bit of string cheese first.

He liked to run up the stairs onto our deck and hop up on the table out there. He looked like Simba, surveying his kingdom from the highest spot in the yard. After we blocked off the stairs he started jumping up on our rock retaining wall. He would sit there for hours sometimes and just watch the world go by.

His nickname around here was Eli the Destroyer. He could chew, dig, bite through, scratch, maul, and tear up just about anything. We lost two pairs of work gloves, a garden bed, a grill cover, a gate, several towels, a couple of dog leashes, a few plants, and of course lots of vegetables from the garden. He even stole our last cantaloupe and scarfed it down before we even knew what had happened. Darn dog – we were really looking forward to eating that too. Ah well.

Trying to figure out a way to get out of the gate on his own

Unfortunately, Eli only lasted 7.5 weeks in our household. He just could not adjust to life in our pack. Or rather, our pack couldn’t adjust to his presence here. Ever since we brought him home our dogs have picked on him. Doing their best to make sure he knew and felt like the outsider. We are obviously terrible at dog socialization, but to be fair to us we have had all these dogs for years and they pretty much have grown up together from puppies, so they’re really tight.

Sadly because of this constant hazing (by the dogs – not us) Eli and Guinness (our other male) started fighting. At first it was just little scraps that seemed to be precipitated by rough play. Both Iris and Guinness are used to rough-housing. And I’m not just talking about the usual dog rolling and romping on the floor kind of playing. I’m talking about ambushing each other at full speed. Sniping each other and coming away with a mouthful of fur. Snapping at each other in a very intimidating way like crocodiles (have you seen the size of Guinness’ mouth?). They’re herding dogs, what can I say – it’s how they play, and they like it – who am I to try and tell them no?!

Anyway, in the past ten days, Eli and Guinness have had two major fights. And I do mean major. Puncture wounds, scratches, mouths around each other’s necks trying to rip their throats out, scratching, biting, rolling around, biting me, serious fights. The first time Eli got the worst of it. Guinness is taller and faster than he is and he managed to get the upper hand rather quickly. When I finally managed to pull them apart Eli had the most blood on him. But puncture wounds and scratches heal up with time and Neosporin. Bruised egos however take much longer to recover from. Unfortunately, on Tuesday Eli saw his opportunity to get the upper hand with Guinness…and he did.

He ambushed Guinness and he hit him as hard as he could. He hopped on his back and grabbed the back of his neck trying to break his backbone (like cats in heat). Guinness is fast though and within a few swift jerks and twists he was able to get Eli down on the ground and had him around the neck. Sadly, we’d put a choke chain on Eli the week before as his regular collar was staining his white coat red when it got wet, and we just hadn’t gotten around to getting him a new collar yet. Somehow, Guinness must have gotten his canines wedged in the chinks in the choke chain and when Eli writhed away from him it pulled out both of Guinness’ canine teeth. After that, it was pretty much over for Guinness. At least his chance to really inflict some major pain. The fight continued for another minute or two (literally a full couple of minutes which felt like forever to me), and Guinness fought bravely. But when I eventually got them pulled apart Guinness was in bad shape. His leg had been chewed up, he was limping, he was bleeding from his mouth and nose where his teeth had been pulled out by the roots, and he was in bad shape emotionally. Eli felt he’d earned his place as king of the castle…and he had. But he’d effectively handicapped Guinness for the rest of his life now.

Yesterday morning I dropped Eli back off at his breeder’s house (she’s a local). I felt terrible about doing it, especially since he’s been with us for nearly two months. But I know that this fight wouldn’t be the last one, and the next one might not turn out so well for Guinness. I can’t bear to lose another dog to a vicious fight (the last time it happened to us we were living in Iowa).

The house feels quieter – less manic. It has only been a little over 24 hours now since I returned him, but truthfully, while I miss Eli, I’m relieved he’s gone. I’m sad that he had to go back under such ugly circumstances, but I can tell my three are happy he’s gone and I suspect he’s happy to be back home among dogs that like him. These past few hours have been quiet – peaceful. There hasn’t been any growling or snarling. No scraps in the yard. No vying for affection and getting upset when someone has been left out. No worrying about escaping over or under the fence. No digging up of my vegetable beds or eating of my garden hoses.

I do hope Eli finds his forever home somewhere nice. Somewhere wide open. Some place that has a high spot for him to sit upon and look out on his world. Somewhere where he can be the King of his domain, and father lots of beautiful little puppies and win tons of ribbons for being the best show dog ever.

As for us, I think three dogs is quite enough.

Feelin’ a little bit lighter on his feet!

Guinness pulled through his neutering like a champ yesterday. He was still really groggy when he got home last night, and was a little bit confused but overall he did just fine. The vet has put him on three days of strict rest and relaxation and some pretty good doses of pain medication. He’s being quite spoiled right now and is just eating up the extra cuddles and pats. Before long he’ll be back to his old self – torturing Iris, demanding attention, slobbering all over the place, and being nose-y with the happenings of the neighborhood.

My boy

He’s off to the vet this morning and will hopefully come home less of a man. We tried this before, but because one of his testicles never properly descended into the sack (sorry y’all, it all sound sooo gross, and I’m trying to be as gentile as I possibly can about it) there will have to be a second incision on his right thigh. Poor boy.

And to top off today’s humiliation we believe he was stung by a bee yesterday. We didn’t notice it until this morning though. He was yelping and whining yesterday afternoon while out playing with Iris, but when I went outside to check on him he seemed pretty okay. I thought he might have twisted an ankle, but he seemed alright and was moving fine. However when Sam went down to get him this morning to take him to the vet’s office the whole top of his nose is swollen up at least 2 inches into a big knot and it seems a bit sore to the touch for him. I’m also concerned it will affect his breathing, but I don’t know as he was breathing through his mouth which is a pretty common occurrence for a big black dog. So, lets hope this little event doesn’t put the kaibosh on our little plan to make him a eunuch. Stay tuned….


Last night was the final night of the 133rd Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City. Sam and I love watching it, and would love even more to attend it in person.

This year we felt the group winners were a little bit disappointing though – especially the choice for the Herding group – the Puli. I really don’t like those dogs – I think they look ridiculous. I just have a very difficult time believing that of all the quality dogs in the Herding group the Puli was the best breed type. Plus, we were rooting for the Belgian Sheepdog – Guinness’ dad was there – “Brodhi” – who took best of breed. He’s an amazing example what a Belgian is supposed to be.

However, the winner of Best in Show was a 10 year old veteran Sussex Spaniel called “Stump”. He was adorable, but not even close to the best of the seven. The crowd really loved him though, and I think that may have swayed the judge just a tiny bit. My vote was for the Standard Schnauzer, Spirit – she was a beautiful dog, and I don’t really like Schnauzers. She is an amazing mover and she set up beautifully on her own. Very classy dog, I thought.

Here’s Stump, winning his way into the hearts of America!

Now the million dollar question is, which breed will we see move into the White House? Will it be another terrier, or perhaps one of the toys? Or will we get a bit more ghetto and see a Rottie or Pit Bull (did I just say that out loud??!!) Personally, I think a goldfish is more suited to this administration, but what do I know?!