Friday, January 17, 2014

Looking to the Future

Although so very soon, we are considering a puppy.

Not that we expect, nor even want, to replace Speedy in some way.  But somehow it just seems right . . .

Ben actually mentioned it a few days ago, which surprised me.  Then, he told me that his mother asked him if we were going to get another puppy and he told her "probably".

It has been on my mind and I guess on my heart, too.

We are not going to run right out and do this today.  My eyes and ears are open and if the right puppy happened along out of nowhere, we would certainly be open to that.  But we are thinking more along the lines of late spring, hopefully close to the beginning of my summer break, but if that doesn't work out, it will happen when the time is right.

And a Border Collie - definitely a Border Collie.  I'm hoping a male for Dean, but of course we will be open to a girl if that is the right dog.

I am open to the possibility of a rescue, but I think that Ben and I are inclined toward a very young dog.  Sammie is 14, Dean is going on 8 in just a month, and Tessa is "about 5".  Even a 2 - 3 year old seems too close to the others in age and none of them are super young anymore.

So, I will be putting feelers out to find possible breeders (or rescue puppies) and we will begin our search.

I know this will have its challenges, but I have done it once successfully and back then I had no idea which way was up as far as raising a puppy went.

I also know that new life in the house will be a blessing.  And it is my hope - although of course I will consider the individual dog - that he or she will become my main Freestyle dog.  Although Tessa dances well and loves it, she really is my Agility partner.

For the record, we will rescue again.  I think just probably not this time . . .

In everyday happenings, Tessa and Dean had Agility last night.  It was very, very good to get back to that.  It was definitely a help to get out there with each of them to work the courses.

Tessa was her solid self.  She got a little odd with the tire because the first time she approached, it was too high.  She didn't forget that and didn't have confidence with it.  Hopefully there will be no tires in the course on Sunday . . .

But we did two rear crosses and I was just as pleased as could be.  Nobody even noticed - they are getting to be that "normal" for us!  I still feel like I'm faking them, but it's working.

Dean and I had a blast.  There was this one part of the course where I really had to run and just leave him to do the jumps kind of behind me as I got to where I needed to be.  I didn't think it would work, but it did - perfectly!!  It was a lot of fun.

Dean was so eager to be out there.

So, life is moving forward.  I am still missing my boy and sometimes it hurts a lot.  This week has felt about 3 weeks long.  But we are pushing on . . .

Thursday, January 16, 2014

It's not all Gloom . . .

I still have three dogs at home and life with them has returned, more or less, to normal.

Just before Speedy started having trouble, I was concerned about Sammie.  He seemed "off" and I was mentally starting to prepare for him to be the one to leave this world.  He is, after all, going on 14 and a half!  His back legs have very little muscle left.

But that boy is tough and he just keeps bouncing back!  He seems better now.  He's no middle aged dog in his prime, but he still wants to walk, explore, play, and live life.

I have asked him to be the one to spend one more summer with me.  He can't do everything Speedy would have done, but he can still do some things.  Maybe he will join Tessa and me for "Walking Club".  Maybe he will go swimming.  Maybe he and I will lay in the grass and look at the summer sky together.

I don't know if he will make it that far, but if he does, I will welcome a special summer with our first dog and my really old boy.  I guess I appreciate him even more now.

Sammie, Speedy, and Maddie were my original "crew".  They were young together, and we really did have good times.

Who would have thought the first and the oldest would outlive both of the "puppies"?

As of today he is alive and about as well as you could hope for a 14 year old!

Dean has been the biggest comfort of all.  He's my Border Collie boy and I have taken the time to play more ball with him and to appreciate his Border Collie ways.

We play, we snuggle, and I tell him over and over how much I am glad he is still with me.

And, of course, I am grateful for my Contessa Benedicta.  Of all of them, she is the one I have to work at interacting with.  Maybe because she, like Speedy, is extraordinary.  Maybe that quality makes me a little standoff-ish right now.  But all will be well in time.

I think Tessa and I will re-bond at our Agility trial this coming Sunday.  I will remember how much I am just in awe of her and how much fun we always have out there together.  I think I need to experience that to get back in touch with it.

The house feels empty with only three dogs.  I know that is a crazy thing to say, but it seems like at least three dogs who should be there are missing.

So, I try to fill that space with extra activity.  Ladder work for all three (Sammie walks over the rungs on the ground), heelwork for Dean and Tessa, tricks for Sammie, filming for online classes . . .

Somehow, it helps . . . .


I find my attitude toward Speedy's stuff to be interesting.

I have no problem passing some of his things on to the other dogs.  And then there are other things that I simply cannot bear to hand on to one of the others.

Years ago, at our very first Star Spangled Swing, we got one of those raised bowl sets in the raffle.  Those bowls have been "Speedy's bowls" ever since.  I only used one of them for one of the others in a pinch.  I didn't even use the device to raise the bowls until this past summer when it was evident that Speedy would really benefit from a raised bowl.

I moved the bowl stand right over to Sammie's place - his bowl fits right into it.  I have no problem whatsoever with him using it.

But the bowls themselves, I cannot use.  I will probably end up packing them away.  I never used Maddie's bowl again, either.  I ended up giving it to a friend to use as a pivot platform with her cat.

I'm not sure why I am that way with their bowls, but there is just no reason to keep them out.

I am glad that Sammie is enjoying the stand, though.  I'd have gotten him one a long time ago if I had realized he would like it so much.

Tessa wears Maddie's collar.  It is just much prettier than the one I originally got her.  I love that she wears it.

I misplaced Dean's collar several months ago and he has been using Tessa's original pink one!  It's not actually girly - it's a diamond pattern.  But it is pink!

I hung Speedy's collar on the collar rack and I plan to transfer Dean's tag onto it and let him use it.  It will clash badly with his merle fur pattern, but I will like having him use Speedy's adorable collar.

But I caught sight of Speedy's 4 foot leather Rally leash that was a gift from his instructors when he earned his first Rally Q and I couldn't even touch it.  I have even used it for other dogs before, but I have always thought of it as his.  I will probably end up packing that away, too, at least until I really need it for something with one of the others.

Tessa inherited most of his decorative collars for Freestyle long ago, so I am fine with her using them.  Most of his training aids, targets, props, etc. have been held in common with the others for so long, I almost don't think of them as his, even if they technically were at some point.  But I'm sure I am going to run into some odds and ends along the way that I will hesitate over.

The biggest difficult I have is with his bed.  He has a really nice memory foam ortho bed that all of the dogs always understood to be his.  I never had to say a word to any dog, Speedy pretty much "claimed" it and nobody argued.

Now it sits empty in its place near the foot of the bed.  Nobody uses it.  I almost wish they would, but they don't.  It's too big to stash.  But is hard to see every day.  I think it might be easier if another of the dogs would use it.  I am thinking about rearranging things a bit.  Maybe if I move it, one of the others might make use of it.

These are the everyday life things.  The things that I encounter every day as I go through daily life and the little things that have to be dealt with as we start the process of moving on.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ups and Downs

This week has consisted of radical swings between ups and downs.

I have actually been quite surprised at how well I have been able to handle this loss . . . at times.  And then at other times, it's about as rotten as it can possibly be.

Dean has been a major help.  While he and Speedy have always been very different, just interacting with a Border Collie has been a very good thing.  And while I watch him play sometimes and am sad that I will never see the graceful, flowing, bright eyed, long black furred Speedy swirling around him as he plays, it is very heartening to see Dean's interest, intensity, animation, and enthusiasm for those ball games, even as he plays by himself.

Sometimes he looks around.  I don't know if he is looking for Speedy, but I know he always did enjoy having Speedy involved in his games.  Thankfully, his desire for those games has not been deterred.  It would have been very difficult to take if Dean had become depressed.

Dean lays around by me a lot.  He is often by my feet, or even up on the bed with me at night.  He is just a comfort.

I am going to have to train Dean to find his own ball, though.  Highly intelligent as he is, he can be quite the ditz when it comes to toy-throw games.  He often gets distracted, doesn't pay attention to where it goes, and then he doesn't quite know how to go find it.  I counted on Speedy to show Dean where things had gone.  He was always quite eager to do so, and Speedy never lost track of where anything landed.

I have started trying to train Dean to turn "left", "right", and to move "straight" as he searches for toys.  It is slow going.  I don't know if he will ever quite get it.  I may be retrieving toys he has lost track of in the future . . .  But I do mean to try to teach him to find them on his own.

After out Rally FrEe class on Monday night, I felt pretty good, but then I woke up on Tuesday feeling horrendous.  That lasted through much of yesterday, but today is mostly better.  But I know that going to teach class tonight is going to be difficult.  I am going to remember that when I went off to teach last week, Speedy was sleeping at home, and I was hopeful that he was going to recover from his surgery . . .

I have carried a lesson from Speedy with me all week long.  On my way to school on Monday, I remembered that no matter what he did, he put his whole heart into it.  When he wasn't feeling good, he was stoic.  He put his heart into his work in spite of that pain and he found joy there.  I have been intent on doing that with my teaching, and I will have to remember that when I go to teach training class tonight.

There has been a lot of pain, but more consolation than I would have expected.  I am grateful to God for that.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Back to Class

The only training classes I attended last week were the ones I taught on Wednesday night.  Other than that I stayed home with Speedy and I am very, very glad now that I did.

But last night it was time to go back.  Tessa and Dean really needed to get out and do something fun, and we have work to do.

I wasn't sure if working with them was going to help or be upsetting, but it turned out that it helped, a lot.  Speedy had been semi-retired for several years.  While we still trained at home and did video work, it has been quite a while since I have packed him up in the car to go off to weekly training classes.  Working with Dean and Tessa at class was familiar and comfortable.

I was half discombobulated, not even using cues half the time, but that didn't matter.  We went out there and we did it.  And they both did a pretty good job.  They were both very happy to be out and working.

Going back to class was incredibly difficult after we lost Maddie.  I did not enjoy Agility class for a full two months.  Running Tessa felt awkward and it seemed that we were the furthest thing possible from being a real team.

But we have come a long way since then and I actually enjoyed being at class.  Tessa and I are a team with some measure of experience, and, of course, Dean and I have found such joy together in the last few months.  It was good to be there with them.  Dean, in particular, had a really good time getting treats by making faces that only he can make at me from the crate.  I couldn't say "no".  He was really just too funny.

This morning I woke up and felt horrible all over again, but I know that this gets better one step at a time - and often one step forward and several back.

But in the meantime, I will do right by the dogs who are still with me.  And somehow, at least so far, I am doing better with that this time.

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Never Enough Time . . .

I know that no matter how much time we have with our dogs, it is never really enough.  Even if this had not happened with Speedy right now, it was coming within the next few years.  Of course, today I wish it had been two, three, even more years from now.  But I also know that whenever that time came, it would have been just as devastating.

I've reasoned my way through it over and over.

In spite of his relative good health, Speedy had some issues that were getting worse over time.  His arthritis actually didn't seem to be bothering him any more than before.  If anything, he had been at a pretty good place with that for quite some time.  But his allergies were truly becoming a serious problem.

Years and years ago a vet told me that his allergies might become a very serious issue at some point.  That was the point at which I made the decision to switch him to a raw diet.  I am convinced that the raw diet helped with the allergy situation, but in recent years it seemed to be getting worse and worse.  He used to have some minor skin irritation and fur loss once, maybe twice a year, for a few weeks to a month.  He had gotten to the point where it was year round and, left to his own devices, he would lick his paws raw.

In retrospect, I know that medicating the allergies was much like putting an older dog on medication for joint inflammation that may end up causing the death of the dog eventually (as Sammie is on Metacam right now).  The negative effects of the medication were worth risking in light of the benefits.  Speedy did enjoy this fall with very little skin irritation.

But it gets me.  It was a sock.  What possessed him to eat an entire laundry basket full of socks?  What was going on in his brain that made that seem like the thing to do?

Then I get into the whole "it was my fault" loop.  That basket should have been in a closet behind a closed door.  Of course, he had never removed an item from the top of a basket to get into it, so I didn't realize . . .  Or, I didn't do enough with him, so he was bored.  As if holding down a full time job is optional, which I know, of course, it is not.

It goes on.  It's part of the process.

Where I am right now, I wish we would have had more time, especially one more summer.  A summer to walk in the woods.  A summer to video Freestyle routines.  A summer to lay in the grass together in the yard, enjoying the sun and the warm air.  One more beach trip.  Another trip to Glen Highland Farm.  About 100 more pictures of Speedy's bright shining eyes and he loved every minute of what he was doing.

I have to remember that no matter how many more summers, how many more days, how many more minutes we might have had together, it never would have been enough.  Never.

I know that we had the right amount of time.  I really do appreciate that Speedy will never truly be an "old dog", unable to do the things that he always loved to do with all his heart.  I am deeply grateful that he had a happy death, content to be with the two people he loved most in the world.  His last moments were comfortable, warm, full of Speedy kisses, and love.  I know he left this world as happy as it is possible to go.  I would pray that all of my dogs might be so blessed when their times come.

Of course, right now, all the only thing my heart wants is more time . . .  I know it gets better, but I am long way away from that place.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Speedy's Movie

Several years ago, I made a "movie" for Speedy, which is really a slideshow to music.

I wanted to share that here.  The photos are old - all from when Speedy really was still "speedy" and he had all of his teeth!!

But his spirit really is captured in the presentation.  This really was how he lived . . . always . . . 

My Sweet Speedy

My sweet Speedy is gone from us.  A week ago, he was here, full of life, full of joy, enjoying the coziness of being shut in during an ice storm.  Today he is gone from this world.

It was sudden.  It was unexpected.  And he has left a hole in our lives and our home that it is going going to take me a very, very, very long time to get used to.

Speedy has suffered from seasonal allergies most of his life.  He he was younger, supplements, acupressure, and diet kept it pretty much in check.  But over the last few years he has really struggled, especially, with inflammation on his feet.

This past fall it got so bad that one of his vets prescribed predinsone.  I don't normally like to give prednisone to my dogs, but this was a serious situation that required major intervention, so I put him through the course.

He did well with it except for one thing - it made him ravenously hungry.  He started eating odd things like paper, socks, and even a partial bag of cotton balls that he managed to get off of a shelf in the bathroom!

He passed all of it without any trouble. We got more careful, the course of prednisone ended, and things went back to normal, relatively speaking.

We remained careful, keeping socks off of the floor, trash cans emptied, and things as safe as we could.  But I made one big mistake and that turned out to be the one that mattered.

I had placed a laundry basket, full of various things, including socks, in the back bedroom.  I didn't just leave it there, open - I placed a black rubber tub on top of it to keep it safe just in case.

Two Thursdays ago I came home and found the rubber tub removed, a bra with straps completely chewed off, and signs that other items had been taken out of the basket.

Although I did not now who had done it, I gave Speedy peroxide, knowing he was the most likely culprit.  When nothing came up, I figured he wasn't he one who had done it, but it turned out that I was just too late.

All was well until Monday.  I got home from work and let the dogs out and I noticed that Speedy was breaking through the ice in the dog yard to get to old grass to eat.  When he came into the house, he promptly threw it up, and then I knew . . . 

I called the vet and was able to get him in to get him seen that evening.  As I was getting ready to go, I discovered a mess in the bedroom.  Three socks, and many pieces of bra strap had been pooped all over the place.  I had no idea what was still inside of him.

They did an x-ray and saw that there was something in his small intestine.  They gave him an anti-nausea shot and said to feed him small meals, and that it might pass.

When we got home, his obvious discomfort continued, he refused to eat anything at all, and I knew I would need to call the vet in the morning.

I spent a good bit of that night sitting with him as he lay on his bed.  Oddly, he was very peaceful.  Completely accepting of whatever was happening . . . 

He went in for surgery on Tuesday and the vet found another sock stuck in his small intestine.  It was successfully removed, none of the intestine appeared to be damaged, and he came home on Wednesday.  He was very obviously uncomfortable, but I had hope that he would hang in and pull through this.

Yesterday morning everything changed.  He became lethargic and was running a low grade fever.  I was able to get him in to his vet in the morning, and I was made aware of the possibility that the sutures in his intestine might have ruptured.  We were hopeful that was not the case, but I was instructed to get him to the emergency vet if his fever went into the high 103's and/or he refused to eat.  Shortly after we got home from the vet, I offered him food and he refused to eat.  His fever had risen to 103.7.  20 minutes later it was 104.  I took him to the emergency vet.

They did x-rays and found that the sutures inside of him had, in fact, ruptured.  His intestine was filling with fluid.  The only option would have been to put him under, go back in, try to drain the intestine, re-suture it, and start back from square one with recovery.  The emergency clinic vet told me that his chances were only 50/50, plus there was a risk of an infection in his blood, plus the sutures could again rupture, and it would be more likely to happen a second time.

I could not put Speedy through that.  If his chances had been good, I would have tried everything.  But it was time to let him go.

Luckily, my husband, Ben, was about 40 minutes away.  I made the arrangements and they brought Speedy into a really nice room with a bed that was very comfortable for him.  I got to spend about 30 minutes with him by myself and then my husband and I spent about another 30 minutes with him together.  He was so happy when Ben showed up.  His eyes lit up, his ears perked high, and he gave him a million kisses.

He died very peacefully, trusting, content, snuggled up to me with my arms around him, with Ben petting him.  I know that for the rest of my life I will be grateful that he had such a peaceful death.  I will always wish it had not had to come so suddenly, nor so soon.

But now it's like one of the brightest lights in my life has been snuffed out forever.  Speedy really did radiate joy and peace.  Life was always better just because he was here.  Even though he lived with chronic pain and was mentally limited in so many ways, he was a huge presence in this household.

Of course I am deeply grateful that Sammie, Dean, and Tessa are here, and they are a comfort to me in many ways.  But the new "normal" is going to be a very long time in coming and I know I will miss him badly . . . forever.

My sweet Speedy, we had such an amazing ride.  It was truly an honor to be your person and your handler and to have you as my Border Collie and companion.