Keeping You In The Shmanda-Loop

You’re probably wondering what the heck’s a Shmandaloop. Well, it’s another nickname for Tansy. Steve came up with it one time when I was booking a Via Rail ticket. They always ask me what the name of the dog is, and in the background, Steve was petting her and said “Shmandaloop. S h m, a n d a, l o o p. Shmandaloop!” It was really hard not to start laughing.

She also gets called Joe with increasing frequency. Why Joe, you say? Well, long story time. Recently, especially when it’s hot, Shmans just flops down where she is and sprawls out. She also seems completely oblivious to people going by, and we’ve both nearly taken a header over her. There’s this sketch by the Vestibules called “Caspar Haboot’s movie music” where the guy sings what’s happening in the plot of a movie. If I could link to it, I would, but it’s impossible to find. At one point, he says something about “Look out, Joe! The fat guy is hiding…” When Tans has decided to lie in one of those awkward places and has tuned us out, when we are trying to avoid her, at the last second, we will sing “Look out, Joe!” at her. Now, we’ve taken to just saying to each other, “Remember that Joe is in the doorway.” or “Don’t move your chair backwards because of Joe.” Yup, we’re weird. But I wonder how long before Shmans starts responding to Joe.

Now that I’ve made you wonder about our sanity with these latest nickname choices, let’s get down to talking about Tansy. Amazingly, it’s only been a couple of months since the last update, but I was amassing quite a collection of notes so I figured I should go for it.

Poor Tansy had a bit of a rough July. We had the bladder infection at the beginning, and then after the antibiotics were done, her poop never went back to its usual solid form. Because I was about to go to Houston for work, I wanted her to be as regular as possible. So, I went to the pet store and got a probiotic. It didn’t take long for the probiotic to be doing its job. But when I got back from Houston, one of my coworkers noticed that there was a spot on Tansy’s face that was considerably lighter and looked like it didn’t have any hair on it. Um, eek? It turned out it was a hot spot, and a sizable one. How I hadn’t noticed, I don’t know, except that the fur is kind of rougher and thinner on the face, so it could hide better. But poor Tans, after getting off the other antibiotics, was given another course of them, plus some steroids to help make the spot less itchy so she would be less tempted to scratchity rubbity root root root at it.

I still don’t quite know what gave her the hot spot. Can probiotics cause hot spots? I did some googling, and it seems that usually they help pooches get over them rather than cause them, but I suppose she could have been allergic to something in the probiotic, and since allergies can cause hot spots, there we go. Or, did she come into contact with something in Houston? I noticed from time to time that she was rubbing her face weirdly when we were out and about and I had to keep making sure she wasn’t up to no good. I guess we’ll never know, but I stopped the probiotic and we started more antibiotics and steroids. When the vet last checked on her at her physical, she said there was a bit of a scab but it was much much better. So unless it comes back, I guess we’re in the clear.

The vet was very speicific that the antibiotics and steroids had to be given after food. They couldn’t be put in her food, I had to give them to her directly. This was the cause of many an amusing adventure, and I discovered that Tansy is more discerning about pills than I thought. She would come to me almost gleefully to get her antibiotics, but as soon as she sniffed or saw those steroid pills, she would run, hide, go quiet, whatever she could do to avoid them. Steve had to team up with me and catch her so I could give them to her. I was worried that she would end up being a pill-spitter, but I don’t think she ever spat them out, thank goodness.

I’m also pretty sure she got all the steroids because she started drinking tons of water and needing to pee more. I was scared that she had another bladder infection, but when she had to pee, she would unleash a river and that doesn’t usually happen with infections, and then I remembered steroids cause thirst and more needs to pee, so it was just the steroids having their side-effects. Thankfully, as the dose got smaller, she didn’t need so many potty breaks.

Then, after things had been normal for a while, her urges to pee went below normal. The first pee in the morning or the last one at night were really slow to happen if at all. This made me worry that there was some kind of blockage. Part of me didn’t think so because she could pee whenever she definitely had to, and if we were more active, she would pee more, but it was still weird. Thankfully, things came back to normal without me going to the vet for no reason.

You might think I’m really jumpy, more than my usual rate of jumpiness, but there is a reason. Before Trix retired, she just kept having medical issues, one after the other. There were bladder infections and increasing numbers of fat lumps and unexplained diarrhea and urgent needs to pee and random skin problems, you name it, Trix had it. And, statistically, Tans’s career is very similar in length to Trix’s. So I can’t help but notice these things.

Because I’m silly, I started calculating some stats. It’s a rough estimate because class time with Tans was shorter than Trix’s, but on August 18, Trix’s and Tans’s careers were the same length. At least I can say their time with me after graduation was exactly the same. On October 13, Tans will have spent the same amount of time home with me as Trix did. Because Tans started working younger than Trix did, this doesn’t mean they’re the same age. Those dates will be October 17 for age when Trix retired and December 12 for when Trix went to her happy retirement life with Brad. So, I’m a little easier to make worry than I usually am. I hope I don’t drive Steve out of his mind. For now, these issues are resolving, and I think I can consider them as one-offs or non-issues in the case of the reduced amount of peeing, but I just keep watching and hoping I catch things before she goes through the amount of agony that Trix did.

Like I said before, she had her annual checkup and they said she looked good. They gave her her Rabies shot and she didn’t have a reaction like that time in 2014. We decided that she should start taking fish oil to help with joint support because I notice she seems a bit uncomfortable and fidgety when she has to be in confined spaces like the floors of cars, and she takes a little bit longer to jump into a car. I don’t know if this is why, but I wondered if she’s calculating how to best do it without hurting herself. Trix started taking fish oil near the end of her career, in her case it was to help with skin issues, but I found that it gave her more energy. I don’t think I wrote this down, but we jokingly said that the fish oil gave her extra life points. I wonder if it will do the same for Shmans, not that she needs them. At first I thought it was doing that, but she seems to have calmed down. But if it helps her joints out, I’m happy to give it to her. I think it must be doing something because she does stay sitting on the bus longer.

It’ll be interesting to see if, when she lies down, we won’t hear so much of a loud thud. Back in August or so, when she would flop down, you would hear a definite thump. Ouch! That can’t be pleasant!

Another sign that Trix and Tans’s careers are about the same length is that their Attorney General’s ID cards both look equally as narled and beaten up. Incidentally, I wish the card’s actually had the dog’s name on them in Braille in case I accidentally mixed them up somehow. It’s unlikely, but it would be nice to check. The braille on one side is stupid. All it says is “Identification card.” Well, duh. That’s obvious by what it feels like. The other side has the number for Ontario Human Rights, so that’s cool. But where it just says Identification Card, the dog’s name would be a heck of a lot more useful, at least in my opinion.

Back in August, we went to my sister’s cottage and her little one, who has always been afraid of Tansy, made more progress. He was running around her when she was loose in the house, and he was out on the deck and she ran past him and he didn’t even care! She had so much fun at the cottage. She snorted and sprinted around the lawn chasing balls, and although she had to spend a lot of time on leash so she didn’t bowl over tiny kidlets, when she got loose, she had a great time. The little tool even stole some roasted marshmallows discarded by the one nephew who wasn’t the biggest fan of them. Shmans, always the opportunist.

I also went to Guelph and saw a lady I haven’t seen in years. I think she has been mentioned, or her dog has, a couple of times back in the Trixie days. It’s been so long since I saw her that Tansy has never met her. Unfortunately, when I did see her again, her guide dog had passed away. She was about Trixie’s age. I know it’s to be expected, but it’s still hard. It was hard when bunches of Trix’s cohort were retiring, but now they’re actually passing away. On top of this lady’s dog passing away, Rosamae left us a few months ago, and before that, Newmar passed away, and that’s just to name a few. Also, Beauty, my room-mate’s dog from the Trixie era, is dealing with cancer. She’s still pretty lively, but the fact is the time is coming. So yeah, lots of dogs around Trix’s age are leaving us.

Back to the subject of our visit, you would never know that Tansy hadn’t met this woman, because I let Tansy out of the harness to meet her, and when I did, Tansy gave her the biggest love fest ever. She must have known she needed it.

While I was in Guelph, I saw my old neighbour and the little guy we nicknamed the huppy. That is no longer an appropriate nickname. The little guy is 9 and talks and tries to solve problems just like his dad. I don’t think he remembers me, and was a little weirded out when I had baby stories about him. He also has a little sister who just turned 5 last week. I had never met her. Um, oops. Hopefully I can see them more now that Wroute is a thing.

I don’t know why, but Tansy has decided that her bed isn’t the best place to sleep. Sometimes she sleeps on the floor next to it, or on the floor by the side of our bed. Who knows why. She usually only does this for part of the night and then goes back to bed. Also, for a while during the night, she would stay put in her bed and not bound out unceremoniously to meet Steve, but recently she has started that up again. Thankfully he has already been up each time she did it, but still. Shmans, you keep me guessing.

At work, sometimes she gets lazy and tries to mindlessly follow coworkers. This is probably somewhat to be expected as she gets older, but it makes me nervous. It also makes me nervous when she just can’t control herself and darts out of my office area to meet a dog as they go by. I always worried if the first sign of her edging towards retirement would be her impulse control going bye-bye. But for now, I’m just going to think she’s having a frisky moment because it’s not happening all the time.

The last thing I have to talk about is funny, but would be funnier if I had a picture. In a previous update, I mentioned a colleague bringing his dog in, and she and Tansy trying to figure out how much interaction they can have. Well, this dog has figured out that I have treats and will try to steal them. She will also stick her head in the harness when I’m looking for Tansy. It’s a good thing she’s really fluffy and yellow, for starters. The guy always jokes that before she wants to work for me, she had better find out about what benefits I offer. Some day, I will get photographic evidence because it’s too funny.

And that’s about it. Tansy can amass quite the list of updates. Hope you enjoyed the ride.

Pick Of The Litter: A Fun Little Movie About Guide Dogs

I’ve been meaning to write about this movie, but I wanted to see it first. Now I have, so here I go. It’s a documentary about GDB, the school that trained Trix and Tansy, and it’s called Pick of the Litter.

It’s the story of five guide dog puppies, and the process they move through as GDB figures out if they will become guide dogs. Basically, it answers pretty much every single question I get asked by the public about the process of training guide dog puppies. It’s available in theatres in select cities in the states, and I know it was shown in Toronto back in May but I don’t know where else it’s getting shown in Canada. But now, it’s available for rent from places like iTunes and Hulu. The great thing about watching it through iTunes is getting the audio description is as simple as making sure it’s on in your media settings under accessibility. If you watch it in the theatre, you have to download this app called “Actiview and do this kind of cumbersome thing where it needs to hear the movie so it can sync the descriptions. I’ve never done it, I’m sure it’s awesome, but this felt a little easier, even if I could find some random theatre near me where I could watch it.

It’s definitely very cute and has some sad moments in it, but it makes it clear how many people are involved in raising a guide dog puppy, and how nothing is a guarantee.

Then, after you’ve watched the movie, you can take the Pick of the Litter quiz and see which puppy in the litter is most like your pup. I was sure they would say Tansy was like Phil, but apparently the quiz thinks she’s like Patriot. Hmmm. Not sure I agree, but hmmm. It thinks Trix was like Primrose. Hmmm. I would have put her as Poppet. I’m not doing well at this.

So if you like puppies, are interested in how guide dogs get to be guide dogs, or both, check it out. It seems pretty well-done.

The Tansy Scoop part 2

And now that I’ve put up the super time-sensitive and milestone-type stuff, here’s some random stuff that’s left over.

Tansy with a big fuzzy blob of pollen on her nose
I’m not a dog, I’m a bee.

I forgot to include a recent picture of Tansy, so here’s one that was taken close to her seventh birthday. I was at a conference, and when Tans went out to pee, she must have sniffed a flower and carried some pollen away with her. My coworker thought it looked hilarious so took a picture.

That poor colleague and I had a very confusing exchange. When I first saw her, she said “Wow, your new dog looks a lot like your old dog!” I wasn’t quite sure who she was because of being at a conference and so I made a comment about them both looking alike, but I was confused because Tansy isn’t what I would consider new. Then I realized who it was, deduced she hasn’t worked at our company for more than Tansy has been my guide, and it dawned on me that when she got the email a few months ago about Trixie’s passing, she thought Tansy had died. Then I thought she must have thought I was a real jerk, just replacing her right away with a new dog who looked exactly like her. I was able to explain things, but there were a few awkward pauses.

I’m not sure if I’ve written about this because it’s hard to search for, but when Tansy is holding a toy in her mouth, she makes this weird snort noise that tells you she’s holding something. It’s good to know, in case she decides to drop said thing on your foot, or squeak said thing in your ear.

A new thing I’ve noticed lately is when she’s really liking an ear rub or a butt scratch, she will make this growling, grunting noise to express her joy. I wish she’d done that sooner so I could have figured out her likes sooner. Oh well, it’s cute anyway.

There are moments that have been lost forever and I wish I could have gotten a picture of them, like the day she was playing with Steve and climbed right in his lap. She didn’t sort of put part of her body in his lap. No, all of her had crawled right up in his lap and stayed there for a few seconds. Or there was the time I was going to take her outside to pee at the end of the day, and she would not go outside until we had a snuggle on the floor.

As she gets older, her favourite songs phase her less and less. But her love of music is still a thing, and her latest song she likes is “My Own Worst Enemy by Lit.

I don’t know how long it will last, but hey, it’s fun while it’s a thing.

I’m starting to wonder if, when we can’t get our Google Home Mini to respond to us and we speak louder, if Tansy thinks we’re yelling at it. Sometimes, she acts similar to when she hears people yelling at each other. Poor, poor, sensitive Tansy.

But she’s not all sensitivity. As she gets older, she is more willing to hump other dogs! I thought her humpings were reserved for my brother’s dog, but apparently not. One day, when she was playing with Steve’s great aunt’s dog, she started humping her, over and over again! Shmans, I was cool with you getting away from humper dogs. I didn’t want you to become one!

I think I can also say that she was no fan of the fancy new emergency alert system and its multiple alerts. The first day, she didn’t seem to care, but by the second day, when they went off, she ran to multiple nearby people as if to ask, “What’s up with the screaming, shrieking things everywhere?”

Work is becoming a more and more interesting place for Tansy. A year and a bit ago, we got a manager that Tansy fell in love with immediately. Just the site of this woman turns Shmans into a leaping, snorting maniac. Thankfully she can keep it together when in harness, although she’s just waiting for her first chance to unleash her inner loopy Shmans. Then, another guy started working near me, and sometimes he brings his own dog in. We’re trying to work out how much interacting we want to happen. At least his dog is well-behaved and he understands why Tansy isn’t just a pet.

Tansy has always been impulsive, but she’s also becoming a bit of a planner about her impulsiveness as she matures if that’s even possible. One time, I took Tansy out to relieve and I was talking to a colleague who also is a big Tansy fan. Tansy was circling as if she was planning to relieve, but she circled in such away that she could swing around and playfully leap at my colleague. Sneaky devil was trying to trick me. She knew it was wrong to just go nuts on my friend, but she thought if I didn’t realize what she was doing until it was too late, maybe she could get away with it. I told her no but what a goof.

I had two funny stories involving random kids at the mall lately. One day, I was walking along and this little kid came running at Tansy. Then I heard a little voice yell “No! Don’t pet those dogs!” Good job, kid. Then another time, I was waiting in line to pay, and a kid reached to pet Tansy. When his father and I told him no, he said “That’s not a service dog, he has a leash,” only he said “leash” like “weash” which cracked me up. He said it as if to say “Ha ha, I’ve figured you out.” Sorry, Detective, you have some learning to do.

I have a few nephew stories but not many. My sister’s little guy is one smart cookie. He has figured out that when Tansy is working, she’s calm, and he’s not scared of her. He’s only scared of her if she gets goofy and starts wagging her tail or trying to kiss him or wants to play with the cats or something. He even will walk right with her if she’s working. That’s pretty awesome.

She’s always good stuff around all the little ones, even when they’re trying to jump over her, or when they manage to spill salt all over her like Steve’s sister’s little guy did. Tansy just lies still.

This last story is more about my brother’s dog than the little nephews. We went to meet the new nephew back in February, and we thought we’d let the dogs outside to romp because it wasn’t that cold and they were both acting a little out of their minds. We thought if they got their sillies out, they would lie quietly. Well, they got bored out there, and came back to the door and had a little barking contest. Yup, Tans is a brat if you let her outside and will bark to come back in. I just put her on a leash so she would calm down, and eventually they lay next to each other.

And now I’m left with the odds and ends.
I’ve mentioned before that sometimes Shmans has gotten it into her head that nighttime is playtime, especially if Steve ends up crashing out on the couch. So, I started tying her down at night if I made it to bed before he got in. But then I noticed that she seemed to be super tired the next day, so I wondered if she was managing to get any sleep that way. So I would start shutting the bedroom door instead. That seemed to do the job and she was less tired. But in the morning, when I would open the door, she would do a full lap of the house before waiting for her food. It’s funny. It’s like she’s making sure everything is where she left it.

I don’t know how I missed writing this down when we were in class together, but one day, when I had her outside to relieve and I was hoping she would pee, I started idly singing “Number 1, number 1, number 1 is so much fun, number 1, number 1, number 1 all day long.” One of my classmates started laughing and asked me what the heck I was singing, so I had to tell her about the numbers rumba. Of course she hadn’t heard of it.

I was thinking about that memory the other day and started singing it again, and someone went by and giggled. They probably think I’m nuts too.

I must be subconsciously thinking about visiting Tansy’s raisers again, because I had this wacky dream that I came to see them. The trip in the dream was pretty much like the real trip, right down to the month of the year, except we all went to a musical designed for dogs, and everybody was encouraged to let their dogs loose in the aisles at intermission. Her raisers were once again not expecting this, and I sure wasn’t. Then, suddenly, all the dogs were magnetically attracted to the one dog who was still on a leash! It must have been a combination of thinking about her raisers, my dog dreams always seeming to involve loose dogs, and maybe that story about a service dog running amuck in a Cats performance.

I just have one more story and then I’ll get out of here. Poor Tansy must find me super unpredictable. But I always thought that she knew that when that flexi leash comes out, we are going to the park. But, I guess this hasn’t been made crystal clear. A little while ago, I decided we would go to the park, but I would relieve her first so I didn’t have to carry around a nasty bag of dog plop while she played. Of course, she did in fact do the doo. So, I directed her back to the garbage can by the door so I could get rid of it. I have never seen a sadder dog. She didn’t walk back to the door, she moped back there. Then, when I got rid of the poop and turned toward the park, she was off like a shot! I think she seriously thought I was going to go “Psych!” and walk back in the building! I think my heart broke a little bit that day.

And that’s it for this epic deluge o stories. Hopefully I’ll be back sooner.

The Tansy Scoop part 1

Wow. The last time Tansy got a dedicated post was December! That’s just not cool! Of course, as a result, I have a metric ton of things to write down. This one could be a multi-parter.

Tansy has entered a time period I affectionately nicknamed “the year of the complex.” She has worked with me for five years and she is seven years old. That’s how old Trixie was, and the number of guiding years she had under her belt, when she told me that work wasn’t her thing anymore. So, I’m probably going to be a little, no, a lot jumpy as we go past all the landmark spots, even though the logical part of me knows every dog is different. Come on, Tans, shatter my complex!

On the veterinary side, she’s been pretty healthy, but in April, I found her first old labby lump. It was really small but I found it. I think the vets must have thought I was silly because when I showed it to them, I said “I think it’s fat because I can wiggle and jiggle and twiddle it! They confirmed my suspicions and we moved on, but eeek, she’s officially getting older! She may not have much visible grey, but she has a visible lumpy! She also had a wee cyst on her ear a few months ago that the vet popped, and another wee tiny lump that disappeared on its own. Her weight is going up and down like a yo yo. They even checked her for worms, and of course there weren’t any, but we’re confused. At this second it’s back up and I’m working on getting it down. The vet at GDB said to watch her weight closely, I guess he was right.

She also lost some hair on her paws during the winter, just like she did in 2016. The weirdest part is she was wearing all Pawz boots, so it can’t be the fault of the other ones. The vets just think it was as a result of friction from the boots, and we’re not worried for now.

And a couple of weeks ago, she developed a raging bladder infection, and because it was a stat holiday, I had to take her to the emergency vet to get it looked at. Yup, they confirmed she had a bladder infection and she came home with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs, the kind they gave to Trix after her dead tail episode. Tansy approves of them just as much as Trix did. I don’t know where the infection came from, but boy did it attack quickly. the night before it was in full swing, she bugged me to go pee a little more urgently than normal, but it was hot as hell at the time so I thought she just tanked up on water. Then in the morning, she was whining when we woke up, but I thought maybe she was just hungry. Then things got weird as she started asking for more and more trips outside, hurrying out there like she was going to burst, panting like mad. But we’ve started antibiotics and those lovely pain meds, so she’s much more content now. And the fee didn’t crush my bank account, so I’m all good too.

In all my years of having guide dogs, and dogs in general, I have never been to an emergency vet clinic before. What a heartbreaking experience. When I first arrived, for some reason I expected it to be a little busier, or maybe a more confined space, I don’t know why. When I walked inside, it felt like walking into a great barren room. I couldn’t even tell where the front counter was. Then we sat and waited, and while we did, we saw lots of people come in worried and leave crying! I had always heard that emergency clinics felt kind of scary because they are very focused on making sure they get paid, and I experienced that. When I called, they said they couldn’t tell me whether I should wait or come in, but here are the fees, and we don’t take American Express or cheque. They don’t take cheque? Wow! Then when I got there, they had me come up to the desk and got all my information, and then it was time to wait. I realized that it was kind of like the human ER. They do some basic triage, and then you wait and wait. I kept wondering when we were going to take her outside and get a urine sample, because they said without the urine, they couldn’t do anything. After finding out that it would be pretty hard for me to get it, they agreed to help me when I phoned in, but no one was offering to help when I got there, probably because they were doing all the triage stuff. My friend who drove me was awesome and got the sample collected so they could work on it while I waited. It didn’t seem busy, but I think a lot was going on behind the scenes, and judging by the crying people, a lot of it was not good news.

I should clarify that they were all very nice to me, but it was just a very different atmosphere than I was used to. Thankfully, the antibiotics and pain meds seemed to have fixed her up, and yesterday my regular vet place said that her urine looked clean, although they said the pH of her urine was a bit basic, I’m not sure how basic and what that will mean. I guess we’ll figure that out soon. Let’s hope I don’t have to go to an emergency vet anytime soon.

She had her followup in May, and things went well. Since I was worried about her asking for treats after every little thing, plus a few incidents where it felt like she didn’t want to show any initiative, and there are a few hairy routes around here that I could use some help on, an instructor came to see me. She gave me some tricks to help Tansy realize that I’m not a human treat dispenser. She thought Tansy was just using her pattern-recognition skills to expect treats a little too often. Over all, she said we looked like a well-seasoned team and she was impressed with how quick Tansy picked up on things. Yup, she’s still a ninja. We’ve done that route a couple of times since, and she loves doing it. It’s fun to watch her get so excited. She also told me something about duck as a protein. She said it was known as a cooling protein. The way she explained it was different than that website, but she said it was helpful in calming allergies and would help reduce inflammation. Uh, cool, I guess.

Like I said, I had experienced a few incidents where Tansy didn’t want to show any initiative in getting around people and things, and that scared me. We would be in the mall and there would be a crowd of people but some space around the edges. Instead of seeking the space, she would just stand behind the people, waiting for them to move. A couple of times we were crossing a street and a car appeared and she would just stand near it, daring it to move. And one day, she seemed hesitant to get on an escalator, and that one scared me because speed is key with escalators. But the no initiative has gotten much better, so I’m going to assume she was tired and going on autopilot a little too much. As for the escalator, it’s a mystery for now. So far, so good.

Something else she was doing in the winter was when it was time to leave the house to go somewhere, she would squish herself against the couch and go super quiet as if she was hiding from me. That one scared me too because I wasn’t sure if she was less keen to go. But I think she was just less keen on winter. I can agree with her on this one.

But she is getting older. Like Trix did near the end, she has started to want to lie down when we ride the bus more. That scares me because I don’t think it was long after Trix started lying down that her career was over. But Shmans has always been one to conserve energy whenever she could, so I’m not super worried yet. She also sleeps more deeply at work now, so much so that she dreams more.

I really feel like things have gone full circle. Remember when Tansy was new and she would search the house for Trixie? I felt like I got a very small bit of that the day Trix passed away. When I came home after saying my final goodbyes to Trixie, Tansy would not stop sniffing me. I think she knew something was up, but I wish I knew what she knew. She gave me a very thorough inspection, it seemed even more thorough than the one that I get if I’ve been without her and seen a familiar person or dog, but I’m not sure if I was projecting my own thoughts on her. But when we went to Brad’s house a few months later, she didn’t do nearly as much investigation as I would have predicted since I thought she would be expecting Trix to be there.

In a final bit of sad news, I found out that last month, Sasha, the dog from Tansy’s puppyhood that I got to meet, finally passed away. She was 18 and I think her quality of life had diminished so much that it was her time. It’s still sad, and would be sad no matter how long she lived.

And I think I will break the post here. I have another post full of things, but this one is long enough.

What’s That, Lassie? You Can Speak English Now?

I read about the idea of a pet translator, and although it’s in primitive stages, I got a little bit excited. Maybe, finally, this could be what I have been wishing for in this old post. Maybe this would allow me to ask my guide dog why she’s having trouble, or if anything hurts, or what is making her anxious. Maybe, just maybe this could help me when the poor thing is trying to tell me she’s ready to retire so I wouldn’t have to do so much guesswork, putting the poor beast through more misery.

It blows my mind that some folks managed to train some dogs to not only go into an MRI, but to be able to complete tasks in there. I read the book on that, and although I didn’t learn what I wanted to, I was still amazed.

Anyway, hopefully, in 10 years or so, at least vets will have a pet translator in their office so we can figure out why the dog is having troubles that are hard to diagnose from mere observation. Then, maybe, in my lifetime, people with pets will be able to buy these suckers and have one in their home.

No National Service Dog Team Standard! Yea!

I have a happy update to the Canadian service dog team standards story. They have scrapped it!

I guess all the comments, meetings with MP\s, and whatever everyone else did convinced them that a one-size-fits-all standard does not work, as we all knew it wouldn’t.

Of course, there are articles like this one that make the standard’s being scrapped sound like a horrible idea.

The future of the federal government’s bid to pair veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with service dogs was thrown into doubt Wednesday by the unexpected decision of a federal regulating agency to pull out of the project.
The Canadian General Standards Board announced it will not develop a nationwide code of acceptable training and behavioural standards for the animals.

I’m sure if Veterans’ Affairs wanted to, they could learn from the many accredited guide dog associations how to build a good standard. This one was going to cause all kinds of problems for current service dogs, and they wouldn’t have wanted that either.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that some other entity could start trying to draft another blanket standard, but for now, it looks like we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Goodbye To Trixie

Trixie takes a treat out of Brad's mouth.
Mmmmm…mouth treat.

Brad, who it can’t ever be said too many times did an amazing job of taking care of Trixie during the last 5 years of her life, has some words to say about her and what happened at the end.

Some of what I’m going to write here I know Carin has already written, but I feel like I need to say it, too. Bear with me if some of it overlaps.

As you likely know, on the 21st of February, Trixie passed away due to what seemed like a very short battle with cancer. I say very short because, in January, we were still going about like nothing was different. During that warm spell in the middle of the month, we were actually able to get out on the trails and get one of those 5 KM loops that Trix loved so much in. She was so happy to be out, off her leash and able to go around in circles, sniff stuff, catch up again, then run ahead a little ways. Like I said, it was basically business as usual.

Trixie smiling as she runs on a hill with Brad.
About a week after that, we were out for a walk around the neighbourhood. It had cooled off and was snowing and the ground was freezing again. Trix slipped on a patch of ice and almost fell. We stopped a minute while she got sorted and I made sure all was alright. We finished the walk, seemingly none the worse for wear. She seemed fine after that, and the entire thing was basically forgotten. She did slow down a bit, and we even took a couple days off walking, because she didn’t seem to be moving as well. She was limping a bit on her left front leg. I figured, well, she slipped, maybe pulled a muscle, right? Well, maybe she did, maybe she didn’t.

Seemingly overnight, she developed a rather large lump on that left shoulder, right on top. I thought back to her slip from a few days ago and figured it was just left from that, but called the vet just to make sure. Trix didn’t seem to be in any pain from this lump. I could touch it; push on it a bit, nothing. It was hard as a rock and had no give to it at all. That’s what made me think it was a bone. It felt just like one.

Unfortunately, when I called, my vet was away on vacation, and would not be back for a few more days. I booked a time when she would be back, and hoped for the best. They asked if she seemed to be in pain and I said it didn’t look like it. I had some pain medicine left from her toe amputation back in the Fall, and they said I might try it just to be sure that nothing was bothering her. I did. Nothing changed. She grew a little more lethargic. I called the vet back to keep them in the loop, but our appointment was still a couple days off.

Trixie laying on her bed in Brad's living room.
She began to seem terrified of the stairs, and I would have to help her down them. She could go up on her own. Keep in mind; this is all in about a week’s time. By about the fourth day, she needed help both up and down the stairs. The pain meds weren’t making a difference. When not on the stairs, Trix seemed like herself. She still wanted to go walking, but I kept it down to a block or two, just enough to get her out and moving. Usually, she hated when I shortened walks, but she was ok with it this time.

Monday of that week was Family day. We went for what would prove to be our last walk. We went out around the block. One block. This was by Trix’s choosing. She sniffed everything, just like always. She went straight to bed after her post-walk treat. She slept until supper. Another thing, she was eating just fine. Nothing wrong with her appetite at all.

Brad and Trixie as the sun sets.
The next day it was back to work for me. Trix didn’t seem keen on our block walk, so we didn’t go. I took her outside before I headed out. I had to help her both in and out. She seemed very tired, too. One of my neighbours often stops by to let Trix out and feed her in the evenings while I’m working. I didn’t know until the next morning when I checked my email that Trix hadn’t been interested in her supper. The neighbour said it took about fifteen minutes for her to decide to come out and eat it.

The next morning when I went down and was getting her breakfast ready, she didn’t come roaring out like she always did for food. I made it up, and then went in to see what was going on. I told her it was breakfast time, but she didn’t seem overly interested. I helped her up, and we slowly, very slowly tottered out to the kitchen. She ate, very slowly, then I literally carried her out to do her business. She wasn’t interested in making her daily circuit of the yard. She was out to pee, and no more. I carried her back in, and she lay down right away. Our vet appointment was still one day away, but I knew something was really not good. I called them. They said they were booked right up, but to bring her right in anyway. I called around for a few minutes and found a ride. Deep inside, I think I knew she might not come home. I don’t know how, it was just a feeling.

Brad and Trixie on the floor by a fireplace.
I lay down on the floor with her, and we had one of our little chats. It was fairly one sided, but I told her I was worried about her, and that she didn’t seem right. She just licked my cheek and put her head on my arm. I couldn’t help it, I lost it. Meltdown 1.0 was in session.

When we got to the vet, she walked in the front door. They took one look at her and said, “Whoa!” There was no waiting around for our time. She went straight on the scale. I knew she’d lost a little weight, but I was floored when they said she was down ten LBS from Christmas. She had been a very lumpy beast for quite a while, so her ribs weren’t that easy to feel. She had a lot of those fatty tumours. Harmless they always said.

We headed for the exam room. They did a blood test right away to check organ function. Results came back fine. All systems firing fine. They did have an awful time getting any blood for the test, though. This worried not only me, but them as well.

They wanted to do x-rays. It was obvious that something was drastically wrong, but the blood test didn’t show it. Of course I said go for it. We have to figure this out.

After about 25 minutes, the vet was back with the x-ray. She said it looked like something that looked like a kidney was putting pressure on her intestines, but couldn’t tell with that angle. I remember asking if that meant that something else was displacing the kidney. She said it probably did.

They wanted another x-ray from a different angle. The vet suspected that Trix had a tumour somewhere in her abdomen. She couldn’t see it, but she was pretty sure that was what it was.

They did another x-ray. It still didn’t show the tumour, but things weren’t aligned like they should be. They brought Trix back up to the room where I was waiting. She was absolutely exhausted. They carried her down to the basement for the x-ray, and back up after it. They set her on the floor by me, and she sat down, and then just lay down. She was exhausted. We talked a bit more. The vet said there was nothing they could really do. Trix had a bleeding tumour in her abdomen, which would explain the lethargy, and the difficulty getting a sample. Her heart was beating very fast, which were all signs of internal bleeding. The only thing to do would be to put her down. Meltdown 2.0 hit me like a freight train. I had suspected something bad when we went there. I think I even knew this would happen in the back of my mind, but, no matter how prepared you think you are for that news, you’re not ready when they come out and say it.

After I sort of pulled myself together, I asked if they could come to the house early Friday afternoon and put her down. I didn’t know this was something they offered, but apparently it was.

She needed to be carried to the truck, as she could no longer stand. I guess the additional blood needed for the test drained her. I lifted her out of the truck when we got home, and she walked with me to the backyard. I figured she may as well pee while we were out there anyway, and save another trip out. She tried to burrow in to a big pile of garden waste bins and other junk my neighbour has between my fence and his house. She has never done that before. I fished her out and guided her in to the back yard. Instead of going to the bathroom, she headed down the yard, and crawled in under some wood in the back corner. I knew then that this was it. I know firsthand that dogs often go off alone when they are ready to die. I unlocked the door, fished Trixie out of the wood pile, and carried her in to her bed. She didn’t even seem to be completely with it at this point. I knew it would be pointless to make her hold on until Friday.

I called Carin to let her know what was happening, and asked if she could make it down that afternoon. As you know from her post, she did, thanks to a great coworker. I called the vet back and explained everything. They said they would be there at three that afternoon.

Those two hours were the longest I had ever spent. I spent most of them laying on the floor next to Trix’s bed just petting and talking to her. I don’t know just what all I said, but I think I told her everything, including what was going to happen and why. She gave me a couple licks, but that was about it.

By the time carin and the vets got there, Trix was in some sort of other world. I don’t think she even knew anyone was there at all. She was lying there, breathing like she was asleep. Carin said her goodbyes, and even got Trixie’s puppy raiser on the phone for one last goodbye. To their credit, the vet and her assistant waited patiently and gave us all the time we needed.

Trixie on a beach as the sun sets behind her.
When the time came, I sat with Trix, with her chin in my hand, just like she often did. They took another couple minutes trying to find a vein with enough pressure to inject the sedative in. It was quick. One second I could feel her breath on my wrist and the usual way her head felt in my hand. The next, she was gone. The breathing stopped, and her head was heavy in my palm. I put her head down on the bed again and just sat, petting her and talking a little. After that, the vet and her assistant carefully rolled her in a blanket, gave me a hug, and took Trixie out to their car.

Carin and I just sat and talked. What do you do when something like this happens? We talked about all the different things Trixie had done, funny, strange, and downright weird.

Trixie in a lei.
I forget what I did after that. The house just seemed so empty. It still does.

I’m sorry this turned out so long, but I wanted to get everything down so you all would know what happened. I didn’t expect it to be this hard to write, though. I’ve had to stop a couple times to blow my nose and dry my eyes. I guess some things are harder to get over than you think. Even a month later, I still get asked at least twice a week where my dog is, and I have to tell the story, the abridged version, again and again.

Brad and Trixie at a creek.
Trixie, you were a great dog, and I will always love and miss you. I’ll never forget all the great times we had, the places we wandered, and the times we got lost in the bush together. So long, friend.

What Dogs Are Seeing When They Watch TV


I was interested in watching this video because quite often, Tansy will come out and sit by one of us, get some pets and stare intently at the television. Her two favourite things seem to be crime stuff like Cops and Live PD, or any of the vet shows we watch, especially the Incredible Dr. Pol. The second category makes sense to us because those shows are full of animals, but aside from the occasional police dog we have no idea what draws her to Cops beyond it being the best show ever. We don’t get an answer to that specifically, but it’s still pretty interesting.

United Breaks The International Date Line…And Also A Dog

Again with the dogs, United? At least you didn’t kill anyone this time, so you’ve got that going for you, I guess.

KCTV reports that Kara Swindle and her two children flew from Oregon to Kansas City, Missouri, Tuesday on a United flight.
They went to a cargo facility to pick up 10-year-old Irgo, a German shepherd, but were instead given a Great Dane. Swindle, of Wichita, Kansas, learned Irgo had been put on a flight to Japan, where the Great Dane was supposed to go.

United paid for the family to stay at a hotel for a night as they attempt to unfuck things, and wonder of wonders, managed to get them a room in the correct city. At the moment nobody seems to know how long it’s going to take for poor Irgo to be vet checked and flown to his proper destination, so one night may not even come close to cutting it.

United Breaks The Rules Of Overhead Bin Stowage…And Also A Dog

If there’s one truth about United Airlines, it’s that no matter what the greatest extent to which something can be fucked up is, they’re the people who will find it.

Today’s episode: Let’s put this family’s dog in this here overhead bin and see what happens.

You, because you do not work for United and therefore might have some sense, already know what happened. It died. And while officially the cause of death is unknown at this time, I’m going to go way out on a limb here and guess that the fact that dogs are not designed to fly between Houston and New York whilst crammed into both a pet carrier and an overhead luggage compartment might have had something to do with it.

United, for once, appears to have wasted no time taking full responsibility for a dumb thing they did. They refunded not only the pet transportation fees, but also the entire cost of the tickets for the family of three. The airline has also offered to pay for a necropsy to be performed on the dog, the results of which they plan to use to make sure they get smoked even worse in the eventual lawsuit.

In a statement, United said that this was “a tragic accident that should never have occurred,” possibly referring to the hiring of the flight attendant who thought it a good idea to store a dog in a fucking suitcase box for several hours.

And just in case you’re new here and think I’m being unduly harsh on United, it should be noted that what went on this week is pretty much standard operating procedure there. In 2017, 18 animals died due to interactions with the airline, as compared to the six that met similar fates on all other airlines in the United States combined. So this is just United Uniteding, basically. Way to keep those numbers up, guys!