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.

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.

A Memorial To Trixie

I have to say the people at my work are amazing. When they heard about Trix’s passing, one of them decided to make me a little something to remember her by. Not only that, but she managed to get a ton of people to send me messages of condolence. This all came together super quickly. I now have a file full of beautiful messages from people, and this amazing little statue. Apologies if the picture is sideways. I really need someone to help me learn how to fix that!

Statue of a black lab sitting on a little round base with "Trixie-Always in our hearts" written in Braille around the outside.
The Braille says “Trixie-Always in our hearts”

Isn’t that just heart-meltingly awesome?

Side note: I always knew 3D printers were cool. Now I have actual evidence of how cool they are. Not only did it make a pretty awesome statue of a dog, but around the base is readable Braille! I know this is a testament to the detail of the specs that were used, but still! Mind blown! My coworker who made it was so happy when I was able to effortlessly read the message that was written there, since if the spacing of the dots is off at all, it can be incomprehensible.

I have had the little Trix statue on my desk since Tuesday and every now and then, I pick it up and hold it for a second. I laughed one day because I set my lunchbox next to it, and the placement was perfect, since it kind of looked like the Trix nose was headed right for it, which it would have been if actual Trix was that close to my lunch.

I will treasure this statue forever. I am truly lucky to have such wonderful people in my life who get it, and go the extra mile to show they care.

Goodbye, Trixie.

This post is going to take me a long time to write. Bear with me. Hopefully, it will actually make sense. I will try, but there is no guarantee.

On Wednesday February 21, Trixie had to be put down. You’re probably all pretty shocked. Brad and I had some inklings, and a screaming warning the night before, but this was not something that was a long time coming that was a big old secret we were keeping from the world. We were all caught by surprise.

The sucky part, one of many, is we don’t know precisely what evil thing came to get her at the end. All we know is she was losing a lot of blood internally, and masses were pushing on organs, and there wasn’t anything they could do. Whatever these masses were, they came on suddenly and grew like crazy, so I don’t think we had a chance. I’m sure Brad will have more thoughts about her last days, but I know he said she was at least trying to have a sniffy walk on Family Day, and by the next night, walking anywhere was not an option, so the last part of the decline was super fast.

About that. Steve will tell you I’m an uber planner. If I can plan for something, I will try, even if it’s impossible because there is so much uncertainty. As Trix got older and began to slow down, I had mentally considered what I would want to do when the end came if I got to see her either right before, or when it was time. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to bring Tansy, but I started to think that Trix might not want her there because they had such a set of mixed feelings towards each other. Tansy always loved Trix, but Trix was a little less keen on the crazed Shmans. Plus, Tansy is very tuned into my emotions, so may not have responded well to whatever state of distress I might be in seeing Trix near her end. I tried to think out how I would get there, and be helpful without being too much of a burden on Brad both before and after. I even found an Uber driver who wasn’t an arsehole about dogs, and didn’t mind long drives. I scooped up his number and had it on standby. I had to keep in mind that said Uber driver needed some advance notice to do this since he had kids and a business, so he could only be used if I knew days out that this was happening. Of course, all of this would be contingent on Brad even being able to have me there for whatever reason, it happening in a planned manner and nature not just taking matters into its own hands, but I wanted to be all ready to go. Then I read about another person putting their dog to sleep at home, and thought that would be the way to do it if we could at all. Trix, in her younger days, was no fan of the vet, so I thought this would make it as comfortable as possible. I looked to see if you had to find a special service for this, and was relieved to see that Trix’s current vet offered this. I stuffed that nugget of info away in my back pocket, but was too cowardly to bring it up to Brad. What good is your back pocket full of nuggets if you just end up losing them in the laundry?

I tried to plan a little further back, hoping to let Trix’s raiser see Trix in video form at least one last time. I was contemplating asking her if she wanted to come up this way and then we could plan some kind of visit, but then life made that possibility next to impossible, so I thought at least I could do the video part. I was taking entirely too long to troubleshoot whether you could put 3 people on a Facebook Messenger video chat so Brad, the raiser and I could all chat together from different locations, since usually when Brad and I were together, it was at a family due. But I took too long, and the universe made completely sure that video contact would not happen. Perhaps this was for the best.

Then, that same universe boomed “I spit in the face of your planning, you measly human! Bow down to my power!” Some things, probably the important ones, worked out the way I wanted them to, but there was no measured and elaborate plan. Like I said, the night before, Brad said she needed help in and out to do duty, and was obviously not herself. The next day, she even needed help to her food. This dog did not need any help finding food. If there was food to be consumed, even unsanctioned food, this beasticus would find it.

So, off to the vet she went, where things continued to look bad for the poor thing. From what I understand, they basically said she was losing blood and she had masses inside her that were pushing on things but they didn’t know why, and her options weren’t good. Brad first planned that we would put her down on Friday, but it became clear that she was probably going that day. Thankfully, he discovered that they would do it at home, and decided to go that route.

He called me and told me the news. All my preparations of scenarios went right out the window. I must have made quite a scene, bawling my face off at my desk, zombifiedly shambling to heat up a lunch I was never going to eat, because an angel in coworker form said “Do you want a cookie? I think you need one!” When I explained to him what was happening, this guy offered to drive me there and back! Seriously! As much as I cursed the universe for taking my plans and smashing them into pretty little shards, I couldn’t have asked for a better gift than this. I will owe him forever.

After I told Brad that I could make it that day, he started arranging things with the vet. we took off, and first dropped off Tansy at home with Steve. I felt bad that Steve didn’t get to see Trix one last time, but he offered to stay here. It’s a really good thing that I was traveling with someone who knew me because I soon discovered that I was not coherent. Never have I found the tasks of unplugging a charger or typing on my phone or finding the correct door in my apartment building or locating necessary items to be such a chore, but they were today.

Once Shmans was safely at home wondering what in god’s name was wrong with me, soon we discovered that the city where Brad lives was a freaking mess because of a nice flood situation. “Road closed” was a sign we saw frequently while trying to get to Brad. This caused us to take longer, which was making me very nervous. Maybe Trix wouldn’t even make it that long. Maybe the vet would have to hurry. Maybe all of this would be for nothing. But there was nothing I could do about it but hope and pray.

I arrived, and the vet and tech were sitting there, taking all the time in the world. They knew the scoop, and were completely understanding of the situation. I continued acting in a completely incoherent manner, barely remembering to hand Brad my coat and set things down. I just listened, heard Trix’s laboured breathing and headed straight for her, bonking into the coffee table as I went.

It was abundantly clear that Trix was at death’s door, knocking loudly. I could hear her breathing from across the room, and it was loud and difficult. Sometimes, it would be peppered with little whimpers that you could be fooled into thinking were dream barks. But these weren’t dream barks. As I approached, she didn’t move one muscle. I petted her and the head didn’t move. That lizard tongue did not reach out to give me a lick. She was in her own world.

As I petted her, I noticed these new and weird masses all over. Where there weren’t masses, she was bony and her back legs felt kind of caved in. This Trix was not the same Trix I saw at the end of December. Whatever this degeneration was, it happened in one heck of a hurry. I knew this, but seeing it solidified it…and started up the waterworks again.

I wondered what my last words would be to Trix. I would always read other people’s descriptions of what they said to their dogs at the end, and wonder if I could come up with something. I couldn’t. I can’t actually remember what I said. I know I passed on that her puppy raiser said that Pepper would be waiting for her at the bridge, and I think I said something like “Thanks for being an awesome dog.” I think I muttered something about being a trooper, no wait, that’s your brother, because some inside joke about Trix’s siblings would make a whole heap of sense to anyone but me. Anyway, when facing down the death of someone important, I was yet again rendered inarticulate.

The vet and tech were incredibly patient as I fought with my phone to get the video chat to work so I could talk to Trixie’s raiser. The weirdest thing was whenever I would open the window for her raiser, without fail, the app would crash. I could open anyone else’s window, but not that one. Closing the app didn’t help, rebooting the phone didn’t help. I only fixed it the next day when I reinstalled the app. So I gave up and called her.

It was at this moment when I realized that I had done a crappy job of helping to knit Trix’s life together. Sure, I had sent her raiser lots of pictures and updates on how she was doing while with Brad, and I had even given Brad her address so he could send her a calendar that had Trix’s picture on one page. But, not once had I brought them together to chat, not once! So, on the day when Trix was about to leave this world, Brad and Trix’s raiser finally met and had a conversation. For that, I will always be sorry that it wasn’t sooner.

After we had all sat around and talked a while, and it was clear that Trix had wormed her way into the hearts of her vet and tech, they gently moved in to do what they came for. Poor Trix had lost so much blood that they could not get the needle into a front leg, had to go for a back leg, and then they kind of had to prop her up a bit so they could get things to go where they had to be. Perhaps it took 10 seconds, and she was gone, just like that. There were no dramatic last breaths, there were thankfully no twitches or gasps or horrible messes on the floor, she was just gone. I don’t know how to explain it, but the room suddenly felt more empty than it had just seconds before.

We talked a little longer about logistics, they gave Brad her collar, wrapped Trix up in a blanket, scooped her up and left. And just like that, the end of an era had come. Trix, who has been a fixture in all of our lives was gone forever.

Unfortunately, I had to head back too. My wonderful coworker had agreed to hang around the city, and since the city was under a state of emergency because of the flood, and Brad was near an evacuation zone, we thought it would be best if I left in case he did have to get the heck out of dodge. So, I was not able to stay around, maybe get him some dinner, talk a while. I felt bad for descending on him and flitting off just as quickly, even though it was what I had to do.

I knew this would be hard. I knew I would be a wreck for a long time. I knew these things in a logical, clinical sense. What I didn’t know was how it would feel, and what creative methods of punishment my mind would devise to make me wonder what I might have done along the way to screw things up. When I got home, in a moment of clarity, I called the school to give them the scoop. That was a rather jumbled conversation. “Hello, support center? Who do I talk to about…erm…it’s Carin Headrick calling…what’s the process for notifying people…my retired guide dog passed away.” They were really good, and took down the info as best I could give it. There was a lot of I don’t know, and then they asked me if Trix had had any ongoing medical issues. It was at this point that I realized I never told them about the lupoid onychodystrophy, or the toe that had to be removed in November, or the thing she was doing where she was drinking way too much water. We just took care of them, and in the case of the toe and the lupoid thing, we thought they were under control. In the case of the water thing, the vet had run a bunch of tests and they had all come up normal. We had put it down to some weird old dog quirk, maybe a bit of dementia, and decided to keep an eye on her water intake. Suddenly, I wondered maybe if I had asked for their advice, maybe they could have asked for different tests and we could have discovered the fast-growing masses before they jumped out from behind the proverbial tree to say “Boo!” But I am starting to realize that all that might have done was hasten the inevitable, since these things meant business, and she could not have survived surgeries the way she was at the end. She was nearly 13, and dogs don’t live forever. But in those moments when I was on the phone with GDB, I suddenly began to be afraid that I hadn’t told them information they needed for the dog’s health, and because of this, Trix had paid the price. Yes, my mind is an evil, evil thing.

It amazes me how many people know Trixie. Each time I tell the story, it gets a little easier, and I can wrap my mind around it a little more. But I think I will be finding people for months that I will have to tell. Trix has a massive fan club.

I am so happy that I have so much of Trix’s life documented. Those memories will live on for years to come, and give me so many laughs, and that is what matters.

Trix, you were a great dog. You put up with this clueless human and learned with me, because I was pretty much a newb to guide dog life when I got you. You melted my dad’s heart, and my dad is not a dog-lover! You took away my one friend’s fear of black dogs. You showed me that I wasn’t the reason that Babs and I failed, and made it so I wasn’t afraid that all dogs pulled like freight trains. You amazed me with your steel-trap memory. You helped me solve the problem of what to do to protect dogs’ paws in the winter. Thanks for traveling with me on all our crazy adventures, including but not limited to new jobs, funerals, weddings, family events, long bus trips, flights, boat rides, helping take care of friends’ babies, the examples are endless. I know some of those things stressed you out but you did them anyway. You really are a trooper.

Not only did you do all of that, but you gave Brad so many memories too. You did things with him that I didn’t think you would ever do! You rediscovered your love of swimming and decided you loved snow! You decided that barking at people who came to the house was a great idea. You really became a dog, pure and simple. I remember one day, we got a voicemail from Brad that said something like “Trix rolled in some dead thing! It stenches!” My parents were there and could hardly believe that you would do such a thing! I’m so happy that once you retired and your stress lifted, all your health problems evapourated. Poor Brad got a laundry list of your needs and things to watch out for. I think I traumatized him, but he still bravely agreed to go ahead. I’m so glad he did, he gave you the life I would have wanted for you.

How on earth do I end this? I guess I could end it by explaining the beginning. That song fits perfectly with this post, but there’s an even better reason to put it here. One night, our friend who we call the shoe thief was at our place, hanging out. For some reason, this song started randomly playing, and Steve and Shoe decided they had to dance to it, because they’re goofs. Trix absolutely loved Shoe, and I guess she decided to get in on it. There she was, standing on her hind legs, perching her front legs on their arms, trying to dance with them. She had never done that before and she never did it again. I really wish I’d gotten a video.

Trix will never be forgotten. Wherever she was, she always made life interesting. We will all miss her.

Have A Giant Holiday Wrap-Up

Holy crap, it’s 2018. I feel like these holidays snuck up on us, then jumped on us, and now I’m still in disbelief that they’re over. In a small sense, they’re not quite over because I haven’t seen the nephews on my side of the family and we might see them this weekend, but everything else is over.

I think the Christmas season would have been a bit merrier if there wasn’t a roving cold going through the family making people sick one after another. This cold/flu/whatever the heck wasn’t messing around. It sent some pretty tough people to the doctor, and hung around plaguing some other pretty tough people for a week or two. It seems to hit you, then just when you think you’ve fought it off, it comes back for a second round of punches. I haven’t got it yet, and I really hope I don’t.

We got tons of time with Steve’s sister’s little guy. That boy can move, climb, do stairs, and his new favourite thing is throwing things. Food, toys, things that aren’t toys…you name it, if it’s within range, it’s probably going for a trip if you don’t catch him in time. I accidentally taught him a new word, but I think he misunderstands its meaning. Whenever anything would clatter to earth, I would say “oops” or “oopsy” or “woops.” Now, he says them after hurling something to the ground. Um, oops.

He’s adorable and a lot of fun. One hilarious thing he does is if you sing a song like “the wheels on the bus,” he doesn’t sing, but he does all the hand actions, and if you’re not singing, he stares at you. He also loves it if you laugh and cover your mouth when you do it. Like most kids his age, he loves having the same book read over and over. I think I could read the “Grandma and me” book from memory. I was almost hoping he would bring it to me and ask me to read it.

Watching him move around puts a whole new perspective on the world and how many things could be scary in it when you don’t know what they do. You can suddenly lose your balance and fall over. You can fail to realize you are under a table, stand up and bash your head. Doors can pinch your wee fingers. People way bigger than you can accidentally bonk you. There are hot things, sharp things, things that look like smarties that aren’t, things that look like they could be fun that aren’t, things that were fun that now no longer are, and they’re all waiting for you to set them off. How in the world do we survive this stage without crumpling into sad heaps of fear?

But instead of being scared, he is full of curiosity and wonder! Many times, you can hear him say “Ooo!” or “Wow!” as he looks at something. He is full of wonder, wondering what that is that he has just found, and we are forced to wonder what he just found and what that might mean.

He also makes it very clear that modesty is a learned thing. He got this adorable, fuzzy bathrobe for Christmas. He came down to show it off to us, and he looked like this little bundle of fuzz with hands and feet sticking out. Then, in a flash, the robe fell off and there he was in his birthday suit, and he didn’t care! He ran through the basement and we had to convince him to put it back on. We had to watch out that he didn’t just stop and pee on a random book. Oh no, “Grandma and Me” might be “Grandma and Wee!”

He got several adorable toys, and their songs and sound effects will follow me for quite some time. One was this little barn with animals and songs.

That video doesn’t have all the songs in it, and it even cuts off the end of one of them, but it has 3 of them that are chasing me around. I’m a terrible person. In the one that says “you give them all the things they need, and you get love in return,” I wasn’t thinking, and for a moment I was mortified. “What? Did it say you’ll get lunch in return?” I thought. Thankfully, I kept my mouth shut and heard what it really said.

Another big hit was this firetruck.

To the dad in this video, go ahead and let Dannie chuck it. It will survive just fine. I don’t think we’ve heard half the things it will say, but it likes to sing the song about “heading out to help, everyone in town, in our red firetruck, hear the siren sound.” We also heard a lot about seeing the flashing lights, and putting the ladder up and down.

There were some other big hits he got, but I can’t remember what they’re called so I can’t find the videos. One was a digger with a little backup beeper on it. Now, when I hear a real backup beeper, I keep hearing “Cat power!” in my head.

He also tested Shmans’s tolerance for little kidlets, and she was amazing. He would fall over her, hug her, try to feed her his bottle of milk, and she took it like a champ. How many times did I pet her and find her with sticky spots where he had probably been? Poor Shmans.

And if he wasn’t testing her patience, there were other doggies who would join in. This was so funny. I brought her into another gathering and kept her in harness. There were two little tiny dogs and several children there, so I was hoping to keep her calm. But this one dog thought there was something wrong with her and just kept poking at her. Sniff her eyes, sniff her harness, sniff her butt. It made me think of how we test responses of people who are in comas by shining lights in their eyes or pinching some skin to see if they flinch. Shmans was not responding, and this made the little dog more insistent. I realized that she would not leave her alone, so after getting approval from the people who owned the house, I let her loose. I don’t think I have ever seen two happier dogs. I think the little dog was sure she had just resuscitated Shmans, and Shmans was so happy to let loose. For the rest of the afternoon, the two dogs could be found playing under the table and being goofballs.

Tans was also amazing because about 3:30 in the morning when all this craziness was set to start, Tans barfed on our carpet. It seems I haven’t documented this fully, but at least once a year, Tans will barf. It’s always in a different month of the year, and we’ve started calling it playing barf bingo. The first two episodes have been talked about, but it happened again in August of 2015, then November of 2016, and just when I was a little too confident that we would make it through 2017 without incident, there it was. She had gotten sick once earlier in the week, but I only saw the evidence after I had fed her her breakfast, so I couldn’t make her skip a meal. Everything seemed to be going along ok, and then on the morning of Christmas Eve, we awoke to what sounded like someone slowly pouring a bottle of water on the floor. Yuck! So that breakfast got skipped, and despite everything being nuts, she didn’t have another upset through the whole holiday insanity.

Tans and Trix didn’t play much, but they got a couple of sessions in. Trix still likes to bark. But Trix is definitely getting older. I can actually hear her legs shuffling along. Don’t get me wrong, she can move, and she did a lot of moving to try and chase people around the kitchen all holiday, but the shuffle is audible. I think she might be moving a little better now, since the poor beasty had to have a toe amputated because it was full of some nasty cancer. They say the cancer didn’t make it to the bone, so she might be ok, but yikes! I don’t know if I’ve lost my mind, but Trix’s head looks noticeably smaller than Tans’s. Is this just something I’ve never noticed before or could it have shrunk? That’s probably not possible, so I’m going to go with the idea that I’m nuts and Trix’s head has always been smaller. Finally, she has this obsession with water, so much so that we have to restrict it, and we have to keep lids down on toilets and bathroom doors closed so she doesn’t try to suck water out of the shower drain or slurp it out of the john. We had to keep the little nephew out of the bathroom anyway, and couldn’t leave water down because if we did, he would probably make his own lake with it, but it’s so strange to see Trix need the restrictions. She hasn’t drank out of a toilet since she was new with me. I told her no and that was that. Now, it’s like she’s driven by a compulsion to drink more than she could ever need. In fact, Brad says if you let her, sometimes she would drink until it just comes back up. She has been tested for all the physical things that could make her thirsty and they come up normal, so we’re left with the conclusion she is doing it because old dog is old. I definitely am trying to get my Trix snuggles in when I can, again, because old dog is old. She seems to think I’m a decent person still, thank goodness.

Steve’s dad moved at the end of November. Now, we should never run into last year’s problem of not being able to get him to Christmas stuff. His place is much smaller than he had, but I think it’s perfect for him, and we all fit in it, even with two dogs and a baby walking around. It was neat to finally see it, since we hadn’t been there yet.

I have learned that I can be such a baby. Steve’s stepdad bought this game called Pie Face. Basically, there’s this apparatus with a chin rest and another part that’s slathered with whipped cream. Every time you turn the handle, there’s the potential to get a splat of whipped cream to the face. So, you have to spin the dial, and whatever number it comes up with, you have to turn the handles that many times while your chin is resting on this chin rest. If you manage to spin it the prescribed number of times without getting splorched, you get the points. In our game, you got double the points. In any case, once you make it to 25 points, you’re safe.

Here’s a video of some people playing it.

Let’s just say that’s not the way I looked. Apparently they have hilarious video of me. I look like I’m playing Russian Roulette. I know my face was all screwed up, and I did not like turning that handle. I kept hearing people saying “She looks like she’s going to have a heart attack!” It was a fun game…there was just something really freaky about never quite knowing when you were going to get covered in goo. That sounds gross.

While I’m all weirded out by getting splattered with whipped cream, some people really don’t like those gift exchanges where you can trade gifts with other people. At one gathering, the way it works is everybody brings something kind of generic that anybody might be able to enjoy. If you’re a woman, you bring something more feminine, if you’re a guy, you bring something more masculine, so there are enough things and everybody gets something. So, all the women draw cards and pick from the girls’ pile and show everybody what they got. Then they draw again and choose to either keep what they have or trade with someone else. The people who drew higher cards have a greater chance of leaving with what they want. Then the guys do the same thing.

There’s this one guy who just hates this game. He always gets annoyed when someone takes his gift, or in the old days when anyone could take anything, when he would end up with a more girly gift. Apparently, he has always been not the biggest fan of this game, so it’s not because he’s getting older or anything. It’s almost become a sport to make him trade, just to watch him get all sad. Yes, we’re evil. I don’t know if he just wants to get something and keep it, or if he can’t remember all the things and it’s too hard, but every year, he gets annoyed. If he would just be cool about it, we’d probably leave him alone.

So that’s the run-down of our Christmas craziness. Like I said before, we decided not to go out last night to hopefully head off this stupid cold. So it’s back to work with me. We just have the nephews on my side to see and then we’ll be all done.

What can I say about 2017? For us personally, it was a pretty decent year. We all were healthy, the nephews got a little older, we went to some shows, everything stayed relatively ordinary, which is the way we like years to go. As for the world, that was another story. It’s never good when every time you look at news, you just keep saying “That can’t be real! That’s not possible,” but it is. It is frightening to see so much open racism and hatred, but I’m happy to see a lot of resistance to that hatred so it’s not all bad. I really hope 2018 can bring better things for everyone.

And Trix Adds Another Data Point

You know what’s funny? For years, I commented on Trixie’s grey hair and worried about her being stressed. People laughed and said stress and grey hair in dogs aren’t related. They may have been wrong.

It appears that dogs who show anxiety around strange people and situations or have a fear of loud noises, among other things, are more likely to start going grey around the muzzle earlier.

Trix was always a bit anxious about what she was supposed to do, and really seemed to get sad if she thought she did something wrong. My mom remembers this one route we took where we walked the route, and for my benefit, we did it again to see if it was better to come at it from the other side of the street. Until we crossed over to the other side, Trix looked so sad and moped along. She was sure she had done something wrong and we were reworking the route, and couldn’t be convinced otherwise until we went in another direction.

Anyone who has read here for any length of time is well-acquainted with Trix’s fear of loud noises. We were made very aware early on that she was not a fan of thunder and fireworks, or thunderworks.

As she got older she definitely was afraid of most dogs. It broke my heart when she wouldn’t play with dogs she didn’t know. I know Mylo had a lot to do with that, but it still made me sad.

Also, she put up with them, but I don’t think she was a fan of strange situations either. Every trip we took caused her to have, well, rather squishy poop. She did her best to cope with these trips, but it didn’t thrill her.

And Trix went grey very early on. Trix, again, I’m sorry if guiding was too stressful. At least now, the reason for your greying fur is because you’re pretty old for a labby.

Updates On the Two Black Beasts

I have some time, so I figured I should write about the two black beasts I know so the post doesn’t grow into a monster.

Tansy went to the vet for her annual checkup a month or so ago, and they said she looked great. They did comment that she does have a tiny bit of grey under her eyes. Nobody else comments on it, so it must be pretty subtle. Yes, Shmans does age. This is a big difference from Trix, who looked noticeably grey when she was only 3. Tans is 6, almost 6 and a half. This is good.

You can tell that Tans is ever so slightly settling down. She’s still nuts, but she calms down faster and tires out easier. Even the vet noticed that she was a smidge calmer. I didn’t think that was possible.

I also noticed that she’s not quite fearless. If we’re out on the balcony and the wind picks up in a certain way, she becomes insistant that we get our butts inside. You know what? As much as we’re probably safe out there, she has a point.

But I think she’s having a bit of a midlife crisis, or going through a late rebellious phase right now. Like I said before, she sometimes forgets the rule that she should stay in bed until I get up. She only does this if Steve is on the couch. I try to remember to tie her down if it looks like he’s going to stay on the couch. I tried only doing it for a short time, but as soon as I didn’t tie her down, she still got up and exuberantly greeted him at 3 in the morning when he was trying to sleep.

And just this morning, even though she knows the kitchen is out of bounds, she trotted in there like she owned the place. When Steve busted her, boy did she run back to bed and stay there.

Our buddy J was down for a visit. It was nice having him around. It felt like he had always been here. It was nice to think back on old memories. But I think Tansy loved having him around even more than we did! I swear, she would have gone home with him without a second thought! It was something else to behold, especially since they met once before without Tansy showing him all this affection. But this time, all she wanted to do was snuggle up to him, play with him, act like a total wackjob around him. It was a little spooky, since he said he was thinking about getting a guide dog, and it was like Tansy had decided she was the salesdog for GDB, trying to make it as appealing as possible.

Shmans is definitely quirky. Someone who sits near me started bringing their dog in. The dog seems perfectly good, and the person keeps the dog on a leash. It is interested in Tans, but it’s a dog, of course it is. But it behaves itself. Tans, on the other hand, started acting weird. Without provocation, she would get up from her bed and run to me. I would say hello and send her back to bed, and she would go back there, but this would keep happening. Then one day, Tans was playing with a couple managers that work nearby, they came over to see us. She got really excited, sprinted over to the other dog, played with it for a minute, and then came back. Now that I think about it, after she did that, she hasn’t been running to me every so often. Was she asking permission to go say hi to the dog, and that’s all she wanted?

She did something else weird, and slightly disturbing, at work. The fire alarm went off one day. Instead of just coming to me so I could leash and harness her up, she ran to some colleagues across the way. Um, chief? This is one of those times when I need you in a hurry!

I know I talked about Tansy barking at the door when she wanted to come back in when we were at the raisers place. Apparently, she will do it anywhere when she wants to get back in. When we were visiting Brad a few weeks ago, we went inside while the dogs were playing outside since Brad’s yard is all fenced. All of a sudden, we hear this squeaky yelpy bark at the door. There’s Tans, wanting to be back inside. Very very interesting. At least she doesn’t scratch the door or do other obnoxious things.

On the subject of Trix, she’s still doing well, but you can see that she’s 12 and a half. When we were there, Brad commented that it’s nice to see a dog making full use of the yard, since Trix just sort of sticks close.

Also, I saw how little Trix likes to chew bones. Shmans made short work of a chew that had been laying on the floor that Trix hadn’t touched in a long while, and found a bone that had just been laying out in the yard. We were sitting outside, and suddenly I heard “chew chew gnaw gnaw” and said “Um, what has Shmans found?” It was just a bone that Trix had left alone. That would not have been possible previously.

Trix has been nicknamed the bearded lady, since she has a definite white beard.

I could be crazy, but it seems like Trix feels the heat even more than she used to. After we came in from a walk, and had been in for a while, Trix was still going “puffa puffa puffa.” She would even do it if we hadn’t been out. I know it was hot that weekend, but woe.

But Tans still managed to annoy the heck out of Trix on our walk because she wanted to sniff every square inch of space, and Trix wanted to go go go! Brad says Trix likes to do that, but does not approve if she’s not the one calling the shots. Well well well.

It’s weird to see the dogs get up in the morning and not make a heap of noise. They just got up, I fed Tans, and put her outside to do her thing. Trix just sort of paced around and waited for Tans to get back in. I think she might have gotten fed. Then she went outside. Then they both came back in, puffed and snorted at each other and that was that. That would not have happened a few years ago. There would have been much chasing, wrestling, lion growling and roofing.

So here’s a scary factoid for the long-time readers. This coming Saturday, Trix will have been with Brad for 5 years. I had Trix for about 5 and a half. Wow. I’m so happy Trix has had a long, happy retirement.

I think that’s about it for now. I wish I had pictures, but I’m lame and didn’t even think of taking some when we had both dogs together and might have been able to convince someone to take them. Hopefully I’ll have more beast updates sooner rather than later.

Something For The Tans Fans

I’ve been very slow in writing about Tansy, which is a shame. She turned 6 back in May and I didn’t write a thing. So now that it’s been 3 months since my last deluge, have another one.

Finding the perfect amount of food for her has been a challenge. I switched to duck back in March or so when she had the UTI issue, and fed slightly more. Apparently it was too much because she packed on the hound pounds. But I only had to reduce it by a quarter of a cup before she dropped back to reasonable. But the weird thing is she’s been getting a lot of treats and is still maintaining her weight. Her metabolism baffles me.

A couple of months ago, I was kind of stressed out. Work was crazy, some stuff temporarily went splat with my benefits, I was getting ready to speak at a conference, life was a little crazy. I thought I wasn’t letting it affect Tansy, but she told me one day that I was wrong. One time I was walking a familiar route. I was basically on autopilot, thinking about life stuff and not travel stuff. Without warning, Tans came to a stop and looked up at me. It was like she was checking to see if she was doing ok because I probably wasn’t giving her feedback of any kind. I felt so bad. I got down on my knees and gave her a big hug and then all was well. But in our four years together, I have never seen Tans ask for reassurance. Sorry, bud. You’re doing just fine. It’s me.

I do notice that without realizing it, Tans and I have slowed down a lot, and I don’t know why. A friend got a new guide dog, and without any effort at all, she will leave us in her dust. I always considered Tans to be a fast walker, but she definitely slowed down since I was sick a while ago. But the encouraging part is she can move if we’re going to an interesting or new place, so I’m going to hope the slowness is just boredom. But how do I combat that boredom when we’re dealing with so much construction?

I saw Trixie again a couple of weeks ago. She’s still enjoying life, but she’s definitely slowing down. Tansy doesn’t even try to bug her into playing with her. She just sort of plays on her own nearby. Hmmm. Could that be a sign of Shmans maturing and knowing that not all dogs want to play? Woe! I never thought I would see that day!

I’ve talked before about Tans feeling the need to rescue Steve if he hides his face under a blanket. I don’t know why, but once, after she did her routine of freeing him from the blanket, she was still going nuts, and it looked like she was actually stressed out. She just kept doing circles of the room, growling at some imaginary thing and still trying to free Steve from a blanket that wasn’t there. We had to actually sit her down and convince her that all was fine.

Also, for some reason, when Steve imitates her by making snorting noises and flopping around on the floor, she goes crazy. I try to do the same, but it doesn’t have the same effect. Does she think Steve is making fun of her? Or is she so happy to play with someone who speaks her language?

So apparently Revolution is losing its effectiveness. It doesn’t totally suck, but the vets are starting to say we should move to something else. So they convinced me to put Tansy on something called Bravecto for the flea and tick bit, and something called Interceptor for the heartworm part. Both things are pills, so no more need to slather my dog with a tube of nasty goop once a month, which I’m sure makes both of us happy. But now I have to remember wacky schedules of pill-giving. The Bravecto is only every three months, and since I started it at the end of a month, it’s on a different day than the Interceptor. So far, I haven’t caused Tansy to miss a dose, although I managed to convince myself I might have, and had to check. Holy crap, both Bravecto and Interceptor are huge! I’m glad she just gobbles them down. I’m also relieved that they haven’t given her any nasty side-effects. I heard about Bravecto last year, but I heard the biggest side-effect was GI upset, and at the time, we were dealing with enough of that already! Thankfully, she’s had 2 of the 3 doses, and nothing nasty has occurred so far.

I’ve talked about Tansy being convinced that my blood pressure cuff was a magical treat dispenser, and bumping the heck out of me while I’m trying to use it. Now, she seems to have given up on jostling the thing when I take it out. Instead, she just lies down next to me. It’s as if she wants to have a calming effect on my blood pressure…or maybe she’s just hoping to be very close by if a treat does happen to fall out of that Velcro thing and she’s proven right.

This year, the client conference for the company was in Las Vegas. Whenever I would say that, everyone would cheer and go “Wow! That’s awesome!” I’m glad I experienced Las Vegas, but I don’t think it was my, or Tansy’s, idea of fun. I had heard that it was crazy and there was a lot of noise and commotion, but I was not prepared for it.

As soon as I walked into the lobby of the Bellagio, I was overwhelmed by the noise. I was always in a perpetual crowd near a fountain and a couple other sources of loud music. It was impossible to get a clue about navigation. Thank god for amazing coworkers. If not for them, I would have been totally screwed.

I also didn’t like the smell that greeted me. When I walked in, Foursquare said “Welcome to paradise!” and I thought “Paradise smells like a busy public bathroom?” I couldn’t figure out why I thought it smelled like a bathroom until I realized what I smelled was what reminded me of really strong bathroom air-freshener, which they needed to use to cover up everyone’s smoking, which they felt the need to do every friggin where.

I felt like I was at an NFB convention, because the pedestrians with which I shared the halls didn’t watch where they were going! People would just stop without warning to stare at this or that, or cut in front of us. On top of that, parents would let their kids dive out in front of Tansy without consequence, and hands would come out of the sea of humanity to sneak pets. Apparently people were taking pictures of us like we were part of the scenery. Tansy was constantly having to watch for people who obviously weren’t watching. She was completely exhausted by the end, so much so that when I was seated somewhere, I barely had to touch the leash because she was out cold at my feet.

And the sidewalks, oh the sidewalks! I knew Vegas was hot, and I even brought Mushers Secret to put on Tansy’s paws to help, but without thinking, I didn’t apply some before leaving for the airport so she would be protected as soon as we arrived in Vegas. We did fine until we hit a few feet of sidewalk that were being completely bathed in the sun. Poor Tansy started dancing from the heat. For the rest of the time, I applied the wax, and we were mostly in the hotel so it was ok. That was some crazy heat!

I do have to say that Tansy doesn’t like many of those indoor relieving areas at airports, the ones inside security, but she was fine with the one in Vegas. Thank goodness she was, since the outdoor relieving area was under construction.

I think those are the major updates that I can think of. I have no idea where the time is going, but Tansy just keeps on trucking.

It’s Tans And Trix Talk Time!

I am so overdue on doggy talk, and we just marched through that time of the year where there is a cluster of dog anniversaries for both Trix and Tans, so it’s a good time to talk about both beasts.

Well, I guess I can officially stop worrying about Tans pulling a LaniJo. She has been with me 4 years, and still seems to be going strong. Sometimes she looks a little sleepier than usual, but for the most part, she seems ready to go. I’m happy it’s spring, because I can take her to the park again.

Tans continues to be pretty healthy for the most part, but she did develop a UTI back in January. It was the weirdest thing. At first, she kept asking to pee and pee and pee, and sometimes when we were out there, she would act like she had to do the other, but it ended up being pee. She would actually whine like she does when she gets diarrhea, but it was pee. She must have been in a lot of pain.

When I took her to the vet, they said she definitely had a UTI and got her on antibiotics. But they scared the heck out of me because they said they wanted to check for bladder stones. Um, ouch. Thankfully, when they did, they didn’t find any, and so far, she’s been fine. Phew.

The weird part was they automatically wanted to put her on a prescription diet for treating bladder stones, or preventing them, or something. I wasn’t too sure about it, the calories were so much lower that I would have had to feed her a ton of it, it didn’t seem to have any meat in it if the label was read to me correctly, and the school wasn’t too sure about it either. So I switched her from salmon to duck because the guy at the pet store said that he might have heard something about a correlation between fish-based foods and bladder stones, and I’ve added a supplement with cranberry and vitamin C in it that’s supposed to keep things nice and clean, and so far, we haven’t had any more problems. But maybe I wouldn’t have had any more problems anyway. Who knows? Poor Tansy, I hope she didn’t suffer too long before making it clear there was a problem.

On the updates front, I have started bringing a toy when she has to ride in the hatch, to help her with her fear of it, and I think it might be working. I can hope so. I also noticed that if I call her actual name when I want her to come, and I don’t use a nickname, that seems to work, although it’s not perfect. I also asked about the issue of her wanting treats all the time, and I’m trying to use their suggestion. They said that although it feels counterintuitive, cut back on the praise, because she has associated praise with the hope of a treat, and only give her praise at spots where you were stopping anyway. It’s not perfect, but I’m trying.

God Tans will turn into a complete nutbar when she sees Brad, especially if we’re at the relative’s house with the other dog that we sometimes let play with Tans. The whining, the lunging, the complete disregard for anything orderly is a sight to behold. At least, usually, after she’s played with the other dog, she looks more respectable. She goes nuts over our buddy Anton, but not in the same way. I’d love to know what makes her decide a given person gets her seal of approval. It’s not always that they have a dog of their own.

She definitely has some quirks. If Steve is playing with her, and covers his head with the blanket, she goes absolutely insane. I’m not sure if she feels she has to rescue him or what, but she starts burrowing her head under the blanket, snorting, trying to throw it off or bite at it, and then running around the room.

And every now and then, she decides to test the whole idea of staying in her bed until I get up. It really sucks if poor Steve has decided to sleep on the couch, and she decides to run through the house at 3 or so in the morning. Sometimes I know why she does this, like the times there was a truck beeping outside the window that sort of sounded like the same rhythm as my alarm clock, but sometimes I have no idea what gets in her head. Anyway, when she starts up with this, she winds up spending a few bedtimes on tiedown to hopefully drive the point home that that’s supposed to be where she stays while I’m sleeping.

Sometimes, she definitely knows where things are more than I do, and she doesn’t mind telling me so. When I go out of the office, there is a pizza place a few doors down. Every now and then, I think we’ve already gone past it, and so I turn her around. She responds by digging in her heels. When I turn her back around, she will sprint even faster to the pizza place. Ok, ok, you win.

I never thought I would see a dog do this, so I feel like I have to mention it. In either February or March, we were going through periods of warm weather, followed by nasty ice and snow. One day, after we’d had some warm weather, I thought we wouldn’t need the boots. Tans was picking her way down the sidewalk so slowly that I actually turned her around and put her boots on. She never limped, she just moved super slowly. After I got her boots on, she moved normally. I think she actually asked for her boots! Wow!

For all her excitement and exuberance, she is super patient with my 2-year-old nephew. That kid loves Tansy, but he hasn’t figured out she has feelings. He will try to sit on her, scream into her fur, drive a little toy over her back, all of which we discourage. But the latest thing amazed me. He thought he could lift her. Of course he couldn’t, but that didn’t mean he didn’t try. There he was, both hands under her butt, trying and trying and trying. She just lay there and let him. My grandma saw her patience with him at Christmas and couldn’t believe it.

Now for the Trixie news. As of two weeks ago today, she is 12. Just try to digest that for a while. Trix…is…12. I brought her home 10 years ago April 15. She’s 12. Wow. We’re getting into that territory where we have no idea what may be on the horizon. She seems mostly fine right now, but you just never know.

You know how I said she couldn’t care less about toys? Now, she’s getting picky about treats! I used to think as long as she could demolish it, it was fair game. But now, that’s not even a safe bet. I didn’t even know what to get her for her birthday this year!

She has more old lady lumps, but they all seem to be the benign type. It’s weird seeing her now. Also, her cataracts are pretty noticeable to people. But it sounds like she still copes pretty well. The scariest old dog thing she has is she’s starting to drag her back end a wee bit. She can still move super fast, but after she’s been still for a while, she needs help up the stairs, and apparently her back toenails look more worn down, which makes us think she’s shuffling her back feet more. But so far, that’s not getting in her way.

You can definitely tell she hasn’t been working for a while. At Christmas, when we had everybody over, including the baby nephew, I thought it would be a good idea to contain both dogs when it was time to eat. I got Tans in the crate, and then took Trix back to Tans’s comfy bed and the tiedown. As soon as I picked up the tiedown to attach to her collar, she got super resistant. She would not lie down, she would only sit. I think she spent the whole time she was contained sitting and staring back at us. To her credit, she didn’t try to follow Shmans’s exampleand rip that tiedown out too. But she was not settling on that tiedown. I could just stuff that idea. Ah, how things change. The tiedown used to be her happy place when the thunderworks were afoot.

I think that’s all for now. But this is a message to both dogs. Please, please, don’t age anymore. Things are good right here.