Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Flow of Time

Time passes so strangely. I can't believe it's been almost an entire year since I last blogged! Wow! Yet time has moved a bit strangely for me. Fast one moment, slower than molasses the next. I blogged a lot last year about Elvis and his journey with cancer. Yet this year I never said one word about my husband's beloved cat, Bugsy, and her passing. Nor of our Border Collie, Cocoa, and her unexpected bout with bladder cancer. So I'm here to rectify the situation.

Bugsy was a Mackeral Tabby we got when we were still in the apartment. I felt our cat at the time, a Japanese Bobtail named Alley, was lonely, so I hied myself down to the complex manager's office and asked her if I'd have to pay more on the pet deposit if I got another cat. She told me to wait a moment, then left the office. When she came back, she had Bugsy in her hands, and held her out to me.

"This cat has been bugging all of us over here each night, begging for handouts. She's yours." Yah!!! No extra money involved! Score! But there was a down side. She insisted on using the doorjambs to sharpen her claws! No amount of yelling, squirting, coins in a soda can or slingshot rubber bands could dissuade her from this little action. No amount of scratching trees or other man made inventions for cat claws would work for her, so I ended up having her declawed. My husband had to replace a couple of pieces of the doorjambs, so he was happy with this, but it took Bugsy a little while to forgive us.

We soon noticed Bugsy getting a bit...well...bovine in shape. So off we went to see if she was pregnant. The vet said it felt like it, and with careful thought, we decided it would be better for all of us to just have her spayed. I just didn't have the time to deal with kittens on top of my job at the time. Surgery was scheduled the next day. But the next day the vet called me at work with good news and bad news. Good: she WASN'T pregnant, but constipated. Bad: She'd already had the surgery!! Sigh.

Bugsy in one of her favorite sleeping positions.

Years passed, we bought our own home and moved in, more years passed. Then one day Bugsy came staggering down the hall like she'd been in a liquor cabinet! Her eyes were crossed, her head bobbed, and she couldn't walk straight and could barely even stand! Off we ran to the emergency vet! Nystagmus was the diagnosis, also called Lizard Disease for cats in the South and Florida who get this, mistakenly thought caused by eating the little lizards. Nothing we could really do for her. Sigh. A month or so later, she got it AGAIN!!! The vet had never seen a cat get it twice! Evidently Murphy's Law not only lived in me, but my animals as well! Poor Bugsy got over both bouts of Nystagmus, but the second one left her with very slightly crossed eyes for the rest of her life.

Over the years, Bugsy developed diabetes, where I got a crash course in giving injections and pilling. The vets and techs at the feline clinic just adored her, as she was the perfect patient. I'd come in with Bugsy wrapped like a kitty burrito in her blanket, and they'd all just love all over her. Bugsy had to have pills, then shots, at specific times of the day, and she quickly learned to remind us if we were late! The time changes twice a year were hell on all of us!!

Another favorite position

Then she developed high blood pressure. I thought, Puh-LEEZE! Hasn't this poor cat been thru enough??? Yet she continued like everything were normal. Through all the dosage changes and adjustments, she was normal. The vet loved to see her as she was never phased by anything. Well, she was bothered by ONE thing...

We rescued a parakeet from someone who thought it a terrific idea to clean the birdcage with a vacuum cleaner! The bird quickly fell in love with Bugsy, going to her every time we let him out of the cage. He would have loved nothing better than to hang out with Bugsy. But since the other cat thought he was on the menu, we had to put him away each time for his protection. The bird worried Bugsy: she'd never had what looked like lunch stalk her before! It was too funny to see a cat run from a little bird!

Yet another favorite position!

Bugsy loved to sleep on her back. In fact, she is the cat in the photo at the top of my blog. But as she got older, and gaunter, she had to change and even lose some positions. Yet she was like a Timex: she just kept ticking. She accepted that she needed shots, she accepted that she needed pills, she accepted the trips to the doctor. It was the rhythm of her life.

She accepted Cocoa when we acquired her as a rescue. Cocoa took to sleeping in the hall outside our bedroom at night, trying to keep the cats out of the room. Bugsy would just walk right past her, while the other cat was cowed.

Oh, yeah. One other thing did annoy her. She could no longer clean herself, so she was given dry baths, and towelette baths, and foam baths, and the occasional bath in the kitchen sink. She hated baths! But she just became an oily mess if I left her alone. I'll probably be like her when I get old. I like bathing myself, dang it!

Towards the end, she started urinating in inappropriate places. And the other two cats started picking on her, sensing the end was near. She was kept prisoner on the couch, so I had to learn how to clean up urine from the cushions. Nature's Miracle, and rubbing alcohol. This is straight from the vet. NM handles one of the two fatty enzymes in cat urine, and rubbing alcohol handles the other fatty enzyme. That gets the smell out. It really works, thank goodness!!! So thanks, Bugsy, for helping me learn how to clean up cat urine!

Bugsy handled the end of her life the same way. Because of her diseases, her body was failing her. We figured she was approximately 16 years old, which was awesome, per the vet, with her having both diabetes and high blood pressure! But body parts were failing, and we were now keeping her alive instead of keeping her healthy. She was now in pain. I called my good friend and neighbor to come, and husband drove as quickly as he could from work. Bugsy was surrounded by family when she took her final breath.

Bugsy was given a firy sendoff, just like Elvis. Family around the firepit, alcohol in hand, toasting that which was Da Bugs! Much tears from all, and stories of her escapades over the years. She was even a calendar kitty for the clinic, and on hubby's birth month! They couldn't have done it any better!

My pets are teaching me many things now. Life goes on no matter what. Just because you're sick doesn't mean life just stops. You can still live, even if you're dying. And they love me, no matter what. I love them, too.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Door of Frustration opens Door of Opportunity

Thank goodness Thanksgiving is over! Yes, we had family over for dinner, yes we had a good time visiting with folks we hadn't seen in quite a while, and yes, nothing was perfect about the day, but we still had fun. So what happened to require the first sentence?

It all started when my stepson said he and his wife were coming up for T-day, and as a surprise they were bringing a turkey fryer to do the turkey and free up the oven. Cool! We (hubby and I) have never had a fried turkey, and were looking forward to it. So, with the number of people attending in mind, I purchased a 20lb turkey and 3 gallons of peanut oil. Then I got to wondering...how big a turkey does the fryer accommodate?

After playing phone tag with SS, we finally got the answer I was dreading; my turkey was too big! So off I went to get a smaller turkey. I didn't really care, since my oven was free to do other dishes for dinner. WOOHOO!

Well, in trying to chisel into stone just who was bringing what dish for the big day, it was decided that the kids were NOT bringing the fryer due to space issues in the car they were driving up in. Well, crap. Now what? I was extremely reluctant to give my oven back to a turkey! I fumed and fussed, muttered and cussed, until I finally went out and got a roaster oven.

My Thanksgiving Day table has never looked so good!

What made me think to do that? My backyard neighbors had us over for veggie lasagna last month, and it was cooked in a roaster oven. After talking with our hosts and discovering you can use this thing to cook darned near EVERYTHING, including a turkey, my mind went off the deep end. My checkbook followed. Once I verified the news that we were, indeed, cooking the turkey, off I went to the store to drag one home. I am now the proud owner of a Proctor & Silex Roaster Oven.

Hubby was not impressed, nor amused. I think he may actually have been a little p.o.'d. But once he discovered it could cook a 20lb turkey in 2 hours, he was certainly much more joyful! And when I discovered I could roast TWO chickens at a time in it, and everything is much more juicy than in the regular oven...well, I did a little dance around my kitchen. Hubby danced because it meant twice the amount of chicken salad, which he loooooooves.

So I was blessed doubly for Thanksgiving. Had a wonderful dinner with family, and got a roaster oven out of it as well. Who could complain about that?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Family Member

As you know from previous posts, Elvis finally succumbed to his cancer. After a month I was finally able to talk my husband into checking out a German Shepherd pup. He's always wanted a GSD, but different things popped up. Like Elvis. But this was his chance. He was grieving as badly as I over our loss, but in an effort to save his sanity from my nagging, he gave in. We took Cocoa with us, just to make sure they got along okay.

The breeder was wonderful! She introduced us to a calm, well adjusted pup who was not too terribly excited about anything. While outside, he loved to eat the goat droppings (ick!). He wandered around, checked us out, then followed us all into the house to view a video of his dam and sire working. We got to see his dam in person, who was NOT too happy to see strangers with her pup! Oh my! Jethro is gonna be a big puppy!!!

Cocoa wasn't interested in the pup, and he wasn't too interested in her, either. And when we decided to take him home, Cocoa REALLY wasn't happy! We coaxed Jethro into the car, and the poor baby road the entire way from the breeder's house to ours (3 hours) on the floorboards!

Jethro is now 6 months old, almost 7, and smarter than both of the humans in the house! Where Elvis didn't mind the 3' dividing fence down the middle of the yard, Jethro hates it, mostly when it keeps him from me. Did I mention he's a mama's boy? Oh yes! At first, he climbed over the fence, and dropped down the other side. He injured his shoulder doing that! And scraped up his back leg. He could easily break a leg doing this! So I decided we needed to work on this immediately.

We worked for an hour in drizzle, me trying to leave thru the back gate, Jethro jumping the fence, me leading him back. At first I would say "No! Bad dog!". After a while I stopped talking, just gave him the cold shoulder as I led him back to his side of the fence. Did this work? Nope.

It only took Jethro 2 minutes to figure this out after watching me demonstrate. Did I mention he was a smart pup??

Next up: remote controlled shock collar. After getting "bit" by the collar a couple of times for jumping the fence, he would still go over. But it lead to another problem: every time he saw the collar (you NEVER leave it on your pet all the time!), he started shutting down, crawling in under the piano, or behind the couch. After only a couple of days, once he saw the collar, you couldn't do anything else with him. So it was returned to the store.

So you think you can outthink me? Bwahahahahaha!

Third idea: electric fence. I got a low power electric fence box, some stab-in-the-ground fence posts, wire, a rebar, and some plastic holders, and hubby and I set up the circuit about a foot out from the regular fence. We know it worked, because Jethro touched it. Twice. Once down by his regular jumping spot, and once up on the deck. What happened? He sat down, looked at the wire for a few seconds. Then he walked out to the middle of his yard and took a running start at the fence, clearing it and the wire by more than a foot. It was beautiful at the same time as it was disappointing. Sigh. Back to the store to return most of the stuff.

So now we are resigned to the fact that we will NOT be having a picket fence separating the dog yard from the garden/people yard like we had wanted. If we had listened to all the research we did on GSDs, we would have known from the beginning that the 6' fence was the only way to go. But we just didn't want to put in a 6' fence! Well, what we want, and what we NEED are three different things. Until we have that fence, if I want to visit my neighbors behind us, I have to put Jethro in the house. Maybe when he gets older he'll be better about it, but then....I've always heard once a mamma's boy, always a mamma's boy.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An Appointment Kept

Elvis has finally left the building. Such a stubborn dog to demand 4 more months of life instead of accepting the 2-3 weeks the vet had given him. I can appreciate his stubbornness; appreciate his unwillingness to leave, as i was just as unwilling for him to leave. But the fight was lost on Aug 23, just 2 days before his 9th birthday.

The vet had advised me to keep a happy face, as attitude was everything. I didn't want to depress Elvis and impede his...well, not progress, but maybe affect his attitude in a negative way? Dogs live in the moment, and if I were depressed or upset, he'd feel it. He had already proved that point on those first few nights when I went to bed crying, and he came up for me to love on until I fell asleep. Once I stopped crying and upsetting him, he stopped coming up to comfort me.

Elvis on his bed at the foot of ours.

I remember that when Elvis was a pup he was constantly carsick. Thank goodness he finally outgrew it, because he was always eager to go for car rides with us. He wasn't one to hang his head out the window, though. He just enjoyed hanging with his humans.

Elvis just chilling in the living room

He hadn't lost much weight towards the end, but he lost most of his body mass. The only thing thriving was the damned cancer. The tumors were growing in leaps and bounds, his gut and abdomen expanding even as his ribs started poking out and his spine rose sharply from his once broad back. His hipbones stood out like knife blades, and we had to stop patting his butt for fear of hurting him. Yet he still liked the spot about his nub rubbed.

Elvis and his beloved ball. You can see how the
tumors have distended his abdomen.

We had delayed our anniversary trip because of Elvis, but it got to the point that we had to go or lose our deposit, so off we went, leaving Elvis and the other fur kids in the capable hands of my neighbor. She made a deal with Elvis: he didn't die on her watch, and he got rotisserie chicken! For the three days we were gone, things rolled along smoothly back home, with everyone in great shape when we got back home.

For some reason Elvis had taken to howling when the phone
rang in the last 2 years. Here he is answering a call. Cocoa
(in the background) can't be bothered to answer the phone.

Then my husband planned an overnight trip to celebrate my momentous birthday milestone: I was turning a half a century old, so it called for a special trip. Once again my neighbor came to our aid, and she informed Elvis the same deal stood: no dying on her watch, and he got all he could eat chicken. But this time the ending was different. When we got home the next day, it was as if you could see Elvis relax. My neighbor said he gave a small sigh as we walked in the door, like "finally!". That was the night he refused to take his medication.

Maybe you have heard of The Pioneer Woman. The blog rocks! Terrific recipes, wonderful stories about living on a working ranch. Gorgeous photos. One of the recipes is for mashed potatoes...with cream cheese...mmmmmmm. My wonderful neighbor discovered that Elvis luuuuuved those special mashed potatoes, so whenever she made some, she made sure Elvis got his share. So when he refused his meds, we tried cheese, special dog pill pockets, cat pill pockets, and yes, The Pioneer Woman Mashed Potatoes. Nothing worked. So we let him have his way.

Elvis with his collection of balls.

I upset my husband as I tried to persuade Elvis to take his meds. They were only an anti-inflammatory and pain killers. Nothing that could cure him, only help him be comfortable until his time came. But cancer tends to eat pain pills for lunch. We had to increase the dosage, but we were losing the battle. I think Elvis knew this and decided enough was enough. When at first he refused his meds, I tried begging and coercing him. My husband thought I was trying to keep him alive, but I just wanted him to be painfree. I knew I couldn't keep him alive. It hurt my husband to see me expressing my pain in such a way. He's a fix-it type, and this was something he couldn't fix.

Typical pose for Elvis; surveying all he protected from squirrels!

While he was a smart dog, evidently he didn't
feel like coming in out of the rain.
I call this "The Missing Dog Deck Formation".

When he refused the pills the next morning as well, we knew he was telling us it was time. I took him in to the vet, who took one look and agreed with me. He gave Elvis a shot for pain, and we arranged to bring him back that afternoon after hubby got off work. My neighbor came along as well, for Elvis had come to mean nearly as much to her as he did to us. We were all three present when he came back to the little exam room after getting a sedative to relax him. He quickly went down on the blanket, his head lolling and a dopey grin on his face.

I won't go into the rest of what happened, but it really looked like he was gone before the vet could administer the last shot. The vet said that because of the speed that he went down, he had very little blood actually feeding his body. Most of it was tied up feeding the tumors. When he got the sedative, his entire body relaxed to the point that he could just let go of everything.

We left his body to be cremated, and my husband decided we would eat Taco Bell in his honor. That last month we were giving him Crunchwrap Supremes to eat. The vet had said to give him ANYTHING he would eat, and while he liked Arby's, he simply adored Taco Bell. So we had his last meal for him, eating Taco Bell in his name.

That Friday we had a bonfire, with the neighbor and her family invited. Her family just couldn't bring themselves to come over, as they were just as emotional as I, and I cry at the drop of a hat! So just my neighbor came over. We watched the fire and just sat and talked, sipping sodas while my hubby was drinking a little tequila. We talked about what a smart dog Elvis had been, learning how to operate the doggie gumball machine, and even teaching the cat how to operate it! Did I mention how smart he was??

My husband proved he is as sentimental as I when he stood to announce a toast to Elvis. After we all toasted, he warned everyone to stand back, then tossed a glass of tequila on the fire. Where I can be one big, sniffling tear factory, husband isn't one to show a whole lot of emotion, but this night spoke volumes. He had been just as attached to the putz as I was!
So the saga of Elvis has come to an end. We are waiting for his ashes so we can finish his stone. We got his pawprints in a little cement block just a few weeks before he died. When we get his ashes, some of them will be mixed in cement for a larger stone, into which the pawprint stone will be set. Once cured, this stone will then be placed in our little zen garden, so he'll still be sitting with me when I'm outside on my glider bench. Sigh. I sure do miss him.

Happy to the end.

As a post script to this journey, I've discovered there are many different internet sites that deal with grief over loss of a pet. Just a few years ago there really wasn't much out there, and now they abound. If you find yourself on the same journey that my family has completed, please do check them out, even if you don't think you need to.

On Mourning the Death of a Pet is very good, with a personal story and excerpts from another site: Pet Loss Support Page. I found this to be a wonderful site, and highly recommend it! It has a particular chapter on Pre-Loss Bereavement, which is what my family suffered. I hadn't known there was a name for this! It was almost mindblowing to discover I had actually followed each of these steps, and in order!

Rainbow's Bridge is a beautiful site that has a forum where you can talk about your loss, find support, and even offer support for someone else. They talk about a candle service held every Monday night for our lost pets. They also have a chat section with caring people to talk to.

There's a different Pet Loss Support site that has a lot of good links.
Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement
My Pet Loss
Pet Loss Tracks In The Sand
American Veterinary Medical Association
Humane Society
About dot com pet loss
About dot com Loss & Grief

These are just some of the offerings out there for those of us who have suffered the loss of a pet. If you or someone you know has suffered such a loss, please check these sites out. Talk to someone. If ANYONE says "It was just a dog/cat/reptile/critter-of-your-choice", just give them a dirty look. I'd say smack them upside their pointy little head, but that could land you in jail. Dirty looks, however, are free. Your pet was NOT "just" an animal; they were your companion, buddy, confidante. Even family member. Don't be ashamed to grieve, cry, throw pillows. Write down how you feel; this blog has helped yours truly keep her sanity, trust me! AND tell the story of Elvis.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Elvis is now on week 16 of his 2-3 week death sentence. The vet's office staff just shake their heads when I show up to refill his pain and anti-inflammatory meds now. I'm striving to give him quality of life, not just to prolong it. I know when Elvis is uncomfortable, but the good times are still outnumbering the bad. He is still on the lookout for squirrels, and still wants to chase balls, and still up for car rides. He is "tested" daily by my neighbor and myself when he is outside. We'll yell "Squirrel!" and off he goes! My neighbor and I will look at each other and agree that Elvis is not ready to go just yet.

Elvis and I were recently in the local Petco store. I was looking for Pill Pockets for his meds, as he tends to not want to eat the nasty-tasting pills. While we were there, a fellow shopper started admiring him, and asked if he were a rescue. As I explained the situation to her, she did something I've not seen anyone else do without instruction from me: she offered him her fist.

Let me explain. When you meet a strange dog, almost everyone wants to pet them. Not all dogs want to be touched by strangers, however. If you stick your hand out, fingers outstretched, the fingers might be mistaken for "snausages", and you run the risk of being bitten. If the dog tries to bite a fist, tho, there is little damage to the fist, and you can use the fist to shove further into the dog's mouth, forcing them to open wider, gag and let go.

When this lady offered Elvis her fist, he barked, then slowly stretched out to sniff it. Then this lady did something ELSE that no one else has done without prompting from me: she started scratching his chin instead of going for the top of his head. Many, if not most, dogs are very uncomfortable with strangers going for their heads, and you run the risk of a nip if you try. But a chin scratch is much more acceptable.

The gals at Petco love to see us when we stop by. They say it's wonderful to see Elvis doing so well despite his condition. He looks like he ate a xylophone with all his ribs sticking out, but he still goes on. My vet has said that people with cancer could learn from animals.

Recently a relative told me that I was being greedy keeping Elvis alive instead of putting him down when I told them about his breathing issues. That had me so incensed that I couldn't see straight!! When I got my emotions and fingers back under control, I sent them an email about him still chasing squirrels and playing ball. Then I let it drop. A week later we spent the day with them, and they got to see Elvis in person. THEN I was told I was right to do what I was doing. Now, they have dogs, and love their dogs, but they are just dogs. Just pets. Elvis has been the biggest pain ever to me!

While still a young dog, Elvis managed to sneak into my fenced garden while I was laying down slug bait. I heard a noise and turned around to see him slurping up the poison as fast as I was laying it down. Sigh. A trip to the pet hospital was taken immediately.

Elvis also was real bad about being carsick. I tried all sorts of things on him; Rescue Remedy and other things. When I interviewed a pet psychic as research for one of my manuscripts, she told me that Elvis had something wrong with his ears, so of course I took him to the vet. The vet could find nothing wrong with him then, so nothing could be done to help him. Eventually that did get better, but it took a few years.

Then we rescued Cocoa. Cocoa is a 3-legged Border Collie whose owner had end-stage emphysema and couldn't keep her. At that time both dogs were 3 years old, and when we brought Cocoa into our house, she immediately went after Elvis. Bloody fights ensued. While Cocoa loves people and does nothing but try to please them, she wasn't as fond of her new canine family.

At this time we had Elvis enrolled in a doggie day care two times a week. He was a digger, and the exercise, play and stimulation he got at the day care resulted in a lot less digging. When we got Cocoa, we just added her to the routine. After a few weeks we were asked to not bring Cocoa back. Seems she was "cutting" Elvis out of the dog packs, not letting him play with his canine buddies. Where Elvis was considered a social butterfly, Cocoa was the cutting horse.

Over the years Cocoa had settled down, but now that Elvis is so sick, Cocoa is back to her old tricks. If she feels Elvis is getting too much attention, she'll cut him out of whatever is going on and start a fight. So now I'm having to separate them, or take Elvis with me, which is not a hardship!

Elvis is still hanging on, still lying on the back deck and surveying all he protects from squirrels, and getting as much love and doggie treats from everyone as he can get! Death? Death who?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Dog Who Refuses To Die, aka Death Had To Reschedule...

That's what I have, folks. Elvis was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma and given 2-3 weeks to live back in April. The x-rays showed an enlarged liver, a HUGE spleen, and a tumor right under his tailbone. I brought him home, fed him whatever I could get him to eat, loved on him, and cried. But the crying upset Elvis. It worried him. I never really thought about dogs worrying about stuff other than who had their toy, or guarding their yard from marauding squirrels, but tears worried Elvis. He tried to comfort me, bless his heart.

The second trip to the vet 2 weeks later had the vet telling me to keep doing whatever we were doing, because Elvis looked better than he did the first time! Cooking a combo plate of quinoa, split peas, rice and potatoes in chicken stock kept him eating, as well as natural, low-processed canned foods. That Natural Pet in the refrigerator section of the pet stores and bigger grocery stores is wonderful!

The next visit had the vet concerned over his breathing. It was labored and sounded bad. X-rays showed the cancer had invaded his lungs so badly that you couldn't even see the heart! So the end was pretty much near. Again, I brought him home and just fed him what he would eat (he as a love for Orange Blossom muffins from Fred Meyers!), and loved on him. The vet suggested raw liver to get Elvis blood count up, but he refused raw. Loves it when I cook it, though. Silly dog!

Today, 3 weeks later, Elvis is still hanging tough. he is much, much thinner, and a little weaker, but his spirit is still strong. He is STILL ready to chase squirrels, and actually chased one down to the end of the driveway just this morning! He is STILL ready to play ball with us, and to chew on his horseball. He is NOT ready to die just yet.

I'm thinking that this year God, the universe, or whatever spirits you may believe in, is/are trying to teach us about time. And not to just lie back and give up when faced with adversity. Dogs take life one day at a time, each day as it comes. People should, too. Comfort the ones you can, and just be happy. Sounds like good advice.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Death Makes An Appointment

When one owns pets, they know the pet has a much shorter lifespan than humans. Some people only own one pet, and when it dies, they decide the pain just isn’t worth it. They feel they can’t go through it again, and eschew any other animals.

Then there are those of us who continue to get pets. Despite the pain and cost, the joy they bring is worth it. And with pets, there are choices to be made: what kind of pet, what kind of food, what kind of training.

Rub my belly? Elvis and his favorite rope toy.

I thought my dog, Elvis, had been gaining weight, so I changed his food. My last dog had died from cancer tumors throughout his body, so when we got Big E, I researched and read up on quality dog foods. I got the best we could afford. So I did a little more research and got him a different dry kibble. That's when he stopped eating. I thought he was just pouting, but when a couple of days turned into weeks, off to the vet we went.

Please note the bell on the door. We taught Elvis to ring it when he wanted out. He usually wanted out during our favorite tv shows. Who trained who?

He wasn’t fat, he had a couple of masses inside him and his liver was enlarged. And the first real clue we really had was when he had stopped eating. It just happened to coincide with the change in his food, so I just wrote it up to being stubborn. The x-rays told the real story. With his symptoms, which also included anemia, panting a lot, and slowing down a lot, the vet gave me a tentative diagnosis of hemangio sarcoma, a type of blood cancer. It’s in the blood vessels, so in reality it is throughout Big E’s body.

We were also given a time frame. Two, three weeks, maybe. Costly exploratory surgery & biopsy was an option where the prognosis was not just grim but very grim, or even costlier regular surgery to remove the masses. But the second surgery could only give him at best another month or two of life, and there was the risk of having to put him to sleep with even the biopsy.

Elvis testing out the wicker couch I repaired and painted for my mother-in-law's Yorkies.

So I brought him home. He knows he is dying. You can see it in his eyes. He knows. He has a different look on his face now. When I get on the floor to play with him, he leans against me and licks my face, no longer wanting to roughhouse. He wants to rest against me. And at night when we go to bed, he leaves his dog bed at the foot of our own and comes up along my side of the bed, lying down so I can lie on my stomach and pet him until I fall asleep. He’s never done that before, and now he’s doing it almost nightly, and of his own volition.

CAT bed? Are you sure, mom?

It's hard to imagine this clown of a dog having to suffer this kind of fate. This is my bud, my companion. On July 4th, while the other dog is cowering under the bed, Big E is sitting or lying on the ground next to me as I shoot photos of the fireworks. The booming explosions don't seem to phase him one bit. In fact, he appears to enjoy the show, turning his head as each color blooms in the dark sky above him.

Kiddie pool king!

He likes to goof around in a kiddie pool. We took him and Cocoa, the 3 legged Border Collie, to the river once. The 3 legged dog leaped right into the river, swimming pretty darn good with only one back leg! But Big E? With 4 intact limbs? Refused to go in any deeper than his chest after dunking his head when he stepped into the deep. But get him in the kiddie pool and he is in and out and in and out, splashing and throwing water everywhere with a goofy grin on his face. That dog is always smiling!

People have asked us what breed is Elvis. We know his mother was an Australian Shepherd, but the dad was never clear. Finally got a clue from one of the dog trainers. She feels dad was a Catahoula. If you look that breed up, there are so many photos that Elvis could have posed for! Many folks have said maybe cattle dog, but Elvis is too long in the body and legs for that. He has a little tail nub that tells his state of mind. It's really a little 2-3" flap that falls down over his back end. When he is happy, that nub is just a'jumpin'! Handy if you can't see the smile on his face.

Flying Frog Dog!

Our backyard is now divided into two sections; the dog’s yard, and the people’s yard. We used to have a huge fir tree right behind the house, but had to have it removed last year when it started to damage the house. I hated to do that, for it was our natural air conditioner, but it finally had to go. With it gone, the back yard really opened up so we could finally have a section that was dog and dog-poop free. I left the gate between them open the other day as I putzed around the people’s side, weeding. When I sat on the edge of the floating deck to take a break, Big E snuck through the gate and came to sit next to me, leaning against my legs and enjoying the sunlight and my hand gently stroking down his back. It was a quiet moment of love shared between two living beings.

Before cutting down....

...AFTER cutting down. Note his favorite toy, a horseball. Best when half-eaten.

Some days he doesn’t feel like eating, and that is worrisome to me. I mean, doesn’t food cure all? Depression, anxiety, etc. And chocolate is the ambrosia of curing food. Since it is poisonous to dogs, I eat his share. Yes, I know food doesn’t really cure cancer, but I want him comfortable, dang it. I’m pulling all the guns in my arsenal out on Big E. Rice cooked in chicken stock, canned food that actually looks yummy enough for ME to eat, liver cooked by my own two hands. Pedialyte in the drinking water. That one didn’t work so well, as evidently they can actually taste the flavorless stuff. Sigh.

Master of the "Pathetic Dog" look when wanting inside. Used with a 90% effective rate.

I took him by the groomer yesterday so she could say goodbye. She was wonderful with him, never afraid of his big growl and bark, knowing immediately a big chicken when she saw him. Yesterday she almost broke into tears. Almost. She paused, then told me she wasn’t going to cry until we left. Bless her. She also gave me a suggestion about getting Natural Balance food roll and feeding it to Big E. That really has done the trick with him! He ate a big 4” cut off the roll, and this morning ate regular canned stuff like he was starving. Can’t get him to eat the dry kibble, though at this point I don’t really care. I just want to spoil him rotten.

Doesn't he look like he knows a secret or two?

The newest cat in our family is a black female that I rescued last October, along with her 5 kittens. They stayed in my garage in a large dog run until the kittens were old enough to go to the Humane Society. I wanted to see if the mama was dog friendly, so I let Elvis into the garage and kept a VERY close eye on them in case mama was overly protective. What did she do? Walked right up to Elvis and head-butted him! Poor dog jumped like he'd felt a cattle prod!

After the kittens were adopted, we decided to keep mama, and renamed her Sake, after the Japanese drink. She is in LUV with Elvis, and Elvis just isn't sure how to handle that! He's not used to a cat actually liking him, wanting to hang with him. Heck, she even sleeps next to him when she can!

Elvis and Sake.

Last night, as I was sitting on the floor next to Elvis' bed and loving on him, Sake strolled up and lay down right up against his back. She just wants to be close to him. I don't know if she can sense what is happening with him, or if she really just wants to hang with him. I DO know it makes Big E just a tad nervous...

He knows he is dying. Just look into his eyes and you can see it. He looks worried when he looks at me, like he’s not sure he should be leaving me. I have my husband, and three cats, and Cocoa, but he knows I don’t like her much. We rescued her, and she repaid us by fighting with Big E every chance she could; big, nasty, bloody fights. At one point they were both going to doggie day care. Elvis even got an award for being a "social butterfly" with his doggie pals. But the good folks at the day care asked us not to bring Cocoa back. Seems she kept cutting Elvis out of the dog packs, not allowing him to play with his canine friends. So she has never been my favorite fur baby. Big E always tries to get her to play with him, but she ignores him. He never stops trying, however. He is a poster dog for the saying: Hope springs eternal. I do play with her and treat her, but Big E is my favorite.

Modeling the homemade pet car seat belt.

Sometime last year Elvis started howling when the phone rings. At first it was puzzling, then irritating, and now just something he does. Friends and family understand to wait a few seconds for the howling to die down when they call. It's actually quite funny to see. It started suddenly and we have no idea why. We've had the phone for two years, so for it to suddenly hurt his ears is a puzzle.

A rare serious expression.

I cry each night now. I don’t know which is worse: having a pet die quickly, or knowing a longer time frame. One minute I think that being given a time frame is horrible, having to watch him waste away, and the next minute I’m grateful for the chance to keep spoiling him.

Look, Ma! It snowed!

Today is the one week anniversary of when we learned of Big E’s death sentence. Yet life goes on. I’m making dinner for my hard working husband, taking care of the diabetic cat, playing with the other cats and dog. I’ve done laundry, washed dishes, gossiped with my neighbor over the backyard fence. Been online, played online games, sewed and crocheted. And in between I sit on the floor with Big E’s head in my lap.

On the old deck, happy-go-lucky.

My husband knows I’m a basket case when a loved one dies. Heck, I cry watching television shows! I'm just an emotional creature. He knows how I was when my dad died, and while my dad and I weren’t close, it was still very hard on me. My husband sees me now, and knows what I feel because he feels it, too. He promised me that I would die before him, just so I wouldn’t have to go through it with him. Think I’ll keep him.

He, too, loves Big E. But his grieving process is much different from mine. While I’m looking at puppies already, he’ll need time. When our first dog, Gizmo, passed, it took him six months before I could talk him into a pup. And that’s how I got Big E. I guess good things do come to those who wait. Whatever pup I get will not be a replacement for Big E. NOTHING can replace Big E. Just as Big E wasn’t a replacement for Gizmo. I just have the need for a dog. My world is complete, then.

Elvis says, "MY gardening glove!" I don't think we've yet found all the gloves he has stolen.

In a few weeks, or maybe just days, my little cosmo will come crashing down around me. Elvis will finally refuse to play ball. He will refuse any food, even my home cooking. Then we will make one last visit to the vet. My husband will help pick me up and start the healing process. And when Big E crosses the Rainbow Bridge, Gizmo and my old cat, Alley, will be there to greet him. I hope they show him how to visit me. They stopped in, just once, after they had passed. I know it was them, as no other animals in my house had those exact colors! So I know there is a Rainbow Bridge, and I’m certain there will be a crowd waiting for me when I get there!