There’s No Place Like Home. Just ask Boog.

 

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Adorable pic of Boog by Kara Hamilton. Mad photos skills.

Please, take me home.

I could hear his voice as clearly as if he suddenly had been granted the gift of human language.  However, the voice I was hearing was not audible, but rather coming from the pleading look in his tired eyes.

I need to g20180528_130955o home. 

Looking down at my boy, hooked up to all kinds of monitors, IV lines, a feeding tube, and a catheter, I knew it couldn’t happen. Not right now, Boog. You need to be here for now. I would not tell him no. Instead, I would tell him, and myself, soon. Soon, Boog.

Boog’s journey to this place, to the intensive care unit of a well-respected specialty veterinary hospital was brief and terrifying. On Sunday morning when we woke up, he was just a little off.

He didn’t want his breakfast – something that hasn’t happened in the nearly 10 years he has lived with us. He went away to a quiet part of the house to rest by himself – also not normal for our always-where-you-are, busy little cattle dog.

I had to leave the house to run a few errands, so told Jim about Boog’s odd behavior and asked him to keep an eye on him. So far, his breathing was normal, his gums and tongue were a good pink color, and he would get up and move around if asked. But a niggling little fear was bouncing around inside my gut.

Watch him. Don’t leave him alone.

Within a couple of hours Jim called to say that he was rushing Boog to a nearby vet that thankfully had Sunday hours. Boog had grown very weak…our boy was crashing. Already in my car heading home, I spun the wheel in the direction of the veterinary hospital to meet them.

The little fear that had been whispering inside me was now yelling at me, especially when I saw Boog again and could see how pale the pink areas of his lips and gums had become.

“Check his spleen,” I asked the moment we saw a veterinarian. Experience with so many dogs, especially the seniors we have taken in over the years, has taught us valuable lessons about the warning signs of several common, but deadly afflictions that can plague our dogs.  Older dogs are prone to tumors forming on their spleens. You won’t have any warning unless you happen to do x-rays or an ultrasound for some other reason and are lucky enough to find it. Most often a splenic tumor isn’t found until it ruptures and makes itself known with frightening, grim certainty.

My fear was quickly confirmed and our sweet boy was raced into surgery as we settled in for one very hard waiting game.

Boog came through surgery well enough, but during recovery his heart rate jumped to a concerning level. Instead of bringing Boog home to recover, he had to be transferred to the specialty veterinary hospital for 24-hour care.

“It’s just for the night, buddy,” Jim and I told him. “You’ll feel better tomorrow.”

But tomorrow came and went with little improvement. Then another tomorrow. We visited our boy, we sat with him, watching for any little signs that he was turning that all-important corner. We knew there were a lot of hurdles in his future, the largest one being the question of the still-pending results of the biopsy on his tumor, but despite everything looming around us, despite all the what-ifs tapping us on the shoulder, we stayed focused on one thing. Boog needed to come home.

20180515_194301At the end of day three, as Boog flipped his tail against his bedding in greeting and we were starting to feel he was showing signs of improvement, one of the veterinarians stuck a pin in that little balloon of hope we were desperately trying to inflate.

“I don’t think Boog will be able to leave the hospital.”

Now, if you digest that statement for a moment, you pretty quickly realize she is suggesting that your dog should be euthanized. This was not the news we were prepared to hear. More importantly, it was not the message we were hearing from Boog.

The veterinarian had very valid concerns. Boog’s breathing was labored. He wasn’t showing a desire to get up…to try to move around. She and her collegues feared issues with his lungs that would lead to certain suffering and death. They had an educated hunch. But so did we.

Jim and I are very rational people. Because of our rescue work, we have loved and cared for more dogs at the end of their lives in the span of a few years than most people have in a lifetime. We do not let our dogs suffer. We do know when it’s time to let go.

But still…all I could hear was that quiet, insistent voice in my head.

I need to go home. Please, just take me home.

And then it hit me. Every time Jim and I visited Boog in the hospital, no matter how tired he was, no matter how bad he felt, he always gave us a tail wag. Always. And each time the techs overseeing his constant care would comment, “Oh look, he wagged his tail! He hasn’t done that for us.”

Boog ALWAYS wags his tail. No matter what. This dog is the friendliest, cheeriest dog I know. Not wagging his tail in greeting to the humans caring for him was HUGE. He was sending a message loud and clear.

So I faced the veterinarian who was trying to let us down so gently. I took a deep breath to quiet the huge lump in my throat as I smiled and told her that I thought Boog was depressed. I explained that we fully understood her concerns and that we all wanted what was best for Boog. And on this night, what Jim and I knew was best for our dog was to let him leave the hospital.

It was against the vet’s better judgement. I assured her we would stay with him every minute and if he started to have any more issues, we would have our personal vet on call to end any suffering, day or night. What was important in that moment was to get Boog home in time to watch sunset with us on our own front porch.

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Home, watching the sun set.

And so all of the tubes were unhooked. All of the monitors turned off. Boog was wheeled out to our waiting car on a gurney where one of the vet techs who had been caring for him helped Jim gently transfer Boog into the car, tears pooling in her eyes. In her mind, this was a goodbye. Bless her for caring for each of her patients so very much.

We got Boog home just in time to sit with him while the sun painted the sky in a pallet of colors that wished us a peaceful good night. Together, we watched our boy through the evening. Then Jim kept his special buddy company through the first night, I was on duty the following night.

And so the magic of home went to work. Boog’s eyes grew brighter. His tail thumped more often and with greater enthusiasm. His breathing calmed. He gained strength, step by step. And his appetite gradually returned.

Over the course of one week, with support from our personal veterinarian (how lucky are we that one of our dearest friends is also our trusted veterinarian?), we watched a furry miracle unfold. Boog went from a dog flat on his side with tubes and monitors attached all over his body, to our bright-eyed, bouncy, HUNGRY, happy-to-be-alive boy.

Now, let me be clear, the purpose of this article is not to question the veterinarians who so carefully and skillfully cared for Boog. They do their job well and we are extremely gratefully to have a state-of-the-art emergency/specialty veterinarian nearby.

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Boog, less than one week after coming home, sweet home.

The purpose of this article is to say that sometimes you have to go with your gut, even in the face of questionable odds. If we had just strictly listened to the hard facts on that Wednesday evening, we might have chosen to let Boog go. But sometimes, in the midst of the overwhelming hustle, bustle, black and white with shades of gray world of medical science, you need to mix in a good dose of heartfelt feeling. And so we did. And so Boog came home. And he is very much alive. In fact, just a week following his return to Tails You Win Farm, we celebrated his 10th birthday.

His challenges are not over…remember that biopsy? Well, the news wasn’t good. But my gut feeling is that we do have treasured time to share with our funny little blue dog. My gut says we have today, and most certainly tomorrow. I’ll take one day at a time quite happily and gratefully.

Boog gets to call the shots now. Two weeks ago he almost died. A few days later we almost let someone convince us he needed to die. Almost is my new favorite word. And hey, Dorothy nailed it when she was trying to get the hell out of Oz…there truly is no place like home.

Party on, Boog. Party on.

 

‘Tis the Season.

IMG_3208No, I’m not one of those people.

Christmas-countdownThis post is not an exclamation of growing excitement over the fact that Christmas is just over 138 days away. I freaked you out a little there didn’t I? Only 17 more Fridays until THE Friday.

But no. We are not going down that path strewn with twinkle lights and elfin magic. Far, far from it.

And, before you dare to read on, this is the point where I must give a TMI warning. This post will be filled with too, too much information about animal husbandry. Actually, more appropriately, this post will be filled with information about avoiding animal husbandry.

If you follow along, or if you care to glance back even one post, you realize that Jim and I rescue animals. Yes, bring us your broken, your old, your castaways. At Tails You Win Farm, we love them all the same.

But damn it, don’t bring us your “in season.”

Yes, for today’s slam-my-head-against-a-wall purposes, the word “season” refers to that lovely period (pun intended?) when a female dog is in heat, estrus, oestrus, “a delicate way.” Call it what you will, it means she’s feeling frisky (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, boom-chicka-wow-wow) and any boy dogs within a five mile radius will be feeling even friskier.

The “lady in waiting” is our foster puppy, Hannah. She is now about eight months old and is experiencing her first heat cycle, therefore we are all experiencing her first heat cycle.

Why, you ask, did I allow enough weeks to pass to allow THIS to happen?

Yeah. I messed up.

I had fully planned to have her spayed well before we had to experience the joy of Hannah’s maturing sexuality. It appears I planned it about a week too late.

You know, things got busy. I lost track of how old she was. She’s just a cute, playful little puppy. I had no idea I should be reading the canine version of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret to her.

While we are not in immanent danger of creating little Hannahs – all potential male suitors in our home are neutered – we still have to keep a close eye on our little Lolita in dog’s clothing in the event that her siren scent carries on the wind to any passing stray dogs. Oh yes, they will show up, and they will try to breach our fortress.

To add to that fun, our resident neutered boys seem, well, quite interested. In fact, I’d describe them as willing and apparently able to introduce Hannah to the world of safe sex. Yes boys and girls, neutered male dogs CAN still perform the act of breeding. I found that out the hard way once upon a time.

I’ll give you a quick mental picture of my champion Dalmatian show dog out in the middle of my yard “tied” in a compromising position (Yes, tied. Dogs get stuck for a bit, for lack of a more charming way to explain that.) with our neutered, smiling mutt of a foster dog. This was back when I lived in a neighborhood. With other houses in sight. And families. Did I mention that this is the vision that greeted the neighbor kids as the school bus dropped them off on the corner?

Yeah. I was the popular neighbor. The red-faced one standing out in the yard with my naughty, naughty “we just need a few minutes to calm down” dogs while impressionable, wide-eyed children passed by. You see once they are tied…well…you just have to wait it out. “Ummm…hi kids…the doggies are fine! No, they can’t play right now. Scoot on home!”

(WARNING: Do not Google “tied dogs.” Just don’t.)

Hey, the parents of those kids should have thanked me. I opened that awkward “we need to have a talk” door that so many parents dread. You. Are. Welcome.

The point is that I thought it was safe to let my in-season girl out in the yard for a quick potty break with a neutered boy. He wouldn’t have any interest. He shouldn’t have had any interest. Oh, but he did. And he did. (Boom chicka-wow-wow)

IMG_0732So now, back in the lovely present, we are in the middle of three weeks (yes, THREE weeks…it lasts 1, 2, 3 weeks) of joy, rotating Hannah and our neutered, though quite amorous boys in and out of crates and runs.

Howie, our senior ranking male Dalmatian, has taken the high road. He seems to understand that it’s pointless and is not interested in Hannah. But the younger guys? Oh lord.

Boog the cattle dog, Bernie the pit mix, and Kainan the wolfdog all have a shiny, hopeful gleam in their eyes and big dopey grins on their faces.

Safe or not, my answer to each and every one of them is HELL NO.

The moral of this story is, mark your calendar with a big red X on the date when you plan to have your female puppy spayed. Six months is a great target date. I missed it…learn from my folly.

We have another 10 days, give or take, to go in this less-than-merry season. We will survive. Hannah will have an appointment with our veterinarian as soon as doggedly possible.

The good thing that came out of this was the realization our other teenager, Cupcake (CC for short) was also coming of age, so we rushed to the vet to have that potential train wreck derailed. She now sports a lovely little spay scar (which if you say that fast and out loud sounds like space car and that never fails to make me laugh).

Very soon, we can get Hannah a space car too. Hannah will stop whining and yipping from her temporary confinement. The boys will stop whining and pacing and, in Kainan’s case, howling in mournful lust. Peace will return to the farm.

Lawrence winEverything will be just fine and dandy. Until our current Dalmatian show dog, Brooke, decides to “celebrate the season” again. And let me check my calendar…yeah, that could happen just about any day now.

Hey, Jim, aren’t we done showing her now?

Maybe the lovely Champion Brooke wants a fancy space car too…

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Hopefully, soon they’ll all be back to happily romping in the grass instead of wanting to roll in the hay.