Archive for February, 2008

It’s All About Me. And Her.

February 26, 2008

 

Yeah, Stella’s around. And yeah, she’s doing great. She’s the best dog ever and not because she’s perfect—far from it–but only because she’s mine.

Anyway, this entry isn’t about HER. It’s about ME. I’m back from the dead albeit I still have this hoarsey, Kathleen Turneresque voice. I’ve decided that, after three weeks with this voice, I may permanently own it.

Or, if I could give it a few days complete voice rest, I could wave buh bye to the Body Heat voice and welcome my old self back. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from having lost my voice it’s this: I have a big mouth. And I do not seem to want to shut up. I’ll painfully squeak out every last syllable even if it costs me another week in laryngitic hell.

But aside from that, I’m back.

Taking my place amongst the living, swimming hard, running hard and breathing like a normal person makes me feel, well, alive. The one dog related thing I will talk about since this is a doggie bloggie is: TGFDD.

Thank Gawd For Doggie Daycare.

In the first few dire months of having Stella, after one doozie of a fight with my beloved about caring for her, I decided that I, or rather, we, needed help.

We researched and visited a few places and decided to go with a doggie daycare place that was small, well managed and, when you walked in, aside from the barks here and there, you had no idea dogs were on the premises. That’s how clean this place is.

In addition to some help in the beginning taking her off my hands here and there as a puppy I’ve found doggie daycare to be perfect for times when you’ve just got too much on your plate for the day and you do not want to crate the critter for hours on end. You can have yourself a productive, guilt-free day while your pooch hangs with her peers.

I’ve used doggie daycare when I’ve had company visiting. When I’ve had too many work obligations. And when, most recently, I’ve been sick. It’s a dream come true. While you sweat out your 102 degree fever in bed, unable to read or even watch T.V. the people of doggie daycare are watching, playing with and socializing your beast.

What a blessing. To be allowed to be spew, hurl and sweat in peace and quiet.

This happened with the flu most recently and a quickie case of food poisoning a few months ago. I was never more appreciative of doggie daycare as a service until I was too sick—sick as a dog in fact—to really deal with Stella.

And that, my dear doggie friends, is my plug for DD. The only downside: It’s not cheap. If you buy the 20 pack at my place you can get it for $25/day. So while I don’t go there super regularly, it’s a great resource to have in your back pocket when you need it.

As I feel better I am gearing up for a trip. It’s a trip where I may get to hear zebras bark. Any guesses as to where I’m going??

In Sickness And In Health

February 6, 2008

stellapup4monhts.jpg

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog because I’m sick. But through my haze of illness I’ve had a revelation.

Before bed last night I’d read a post on the Greytalk (www.greytalk.com) message boards about a woman’s sadness as she watched, nearly overnight, her beloved pooch get old. One day you look over, she remarked, and your pet has aged–dramatically. Maybe it’s weight loss that finally sinks in. Or they way they walk. One woman talked about finding her dog, fallen, and unable to get up.

So last night, while I couldn’t sleep, as I lay awake with my chest tight with congestion, my head pounding and my stomach churning, I began thinking about death, dying and illness. My mind drifted back to those posts and then to my illness that had me laid up with fever, aches and chills. I wondered what life would be like if I was told my misery would be permanent, that there was no chance for improvement. And what if, while I lay here miserable and, like a dog or cat, I remained unable to communicate and articulate my suffering? This question is not new but having put down two cats and presently in possession of a brand new puppy, I thought it was time to revisit. 

The flu feels lousy. But we know there’s an end in sight. But what if, just what if, there were no end? And what if we could do something about this situation to stop the suffering. I could hear Stella sleeping in her crate and this question pushed me want to get out of bed and write a manifesto–a note to myself–so that when the time comes, I’ll do the right thing.

Dear Stella, 

As your owner, caretaker and friend, I promise to give you the best beginning, middle, end and everything in between in your sweet life.  For my end, I will make you a part of my life, will let you open up my heart and anyone’s else’s with your charm. I will do my best to help you become the best dog you can be. I will give you training, expose you to people, animals and situations that will allow you to sail through life calmly and happily.  I will keep a close  eye on your health.  I will exercise you as much as I can and as much as you need it.  I will try not to leave you alone too much. You’re a dog and you’re social. You especially, you are very social. Remember: You’re Miss Congeniality.  

I will not, as you get older, allow you to suffer if I feel you are getting sick. I will try, as hard as I can, to recognize the signals that life is painful for you. If you lose your appetite, can’t walk right, struggle to get up in the morning or at all, I will try, as hard as it will be, to make your being, your well being, your life and your pain a priority. Keeping you around so that I don’t have to ride those waves of grief is not acceptable.  

Stella, you are only now eight months old and I’m thinking about your death. But death is the dark shadow that life casts on all of us. And it’s your dumb luck that you have an owner that thinks about these things. Or maybe not. As you sleep in your crate right now, you’re in the moment. As I type out here, I’m in the future—far into it—wanting to take care of you as you breathe your last breaths.

I finished my letter and closed the document and saved it.

I crawled back into bed. I felt better. I could feel that the congestion had eased off in my chest. I felt thankful for my good health, for an immune system that could whack back a pesky virus pretty quickly.

And I felt thankful, at this very moment, that I had rescued a puppy because I would have her—hopefully—for a long, long time.

I forced myself to think about the positive—about the idea that it would not be out of the question that I could have ten years—one hundred twenty months—to spend with this wonderful black and white creature.

As I drifted back to sleep I imagined those hundred wonderful months. I thought about the sun soaking the planet each day and the moon pulling at the oceans’ tides. I saw waves lapping up onto the sandy beaches and then retreating. In my mind I could hear the waves come in and out, in and out, in and out with the same steady, wonderful rhythm, the soothing, wonderful rhythm of life.

Let’s Make A Deal

February 4, 2008

zebrarug.jpgNot one to dwell much on life’s happier moments, I quickly moved on from the Llew victory to the next challenge: maintaining a urine free home. I’ve always had indoor/outdoor cats. The disadvantage is that they may live a shorter lifespan due to environmental concerns—cars mostly. The advantage is that they can live a happier life climbing trees, chasing rats and using the world as their litter box instead of my living room.

When driving up to Auburn, we thoroughly discussed go word options. Go words are what you say when you want your pup to, well, “go.”

Note: When you pick your “go words” choose wisely. Just like a name, these words will stay–some would say haunt–you and your pup for a long time. You will be saying these words over and over and over again.

P. suggested, “Do your business.”  But I’d heard that one so many times before. It was so old and so tired. And what if we were out and there was another owner telling his dog to do his business?  And another owner out a few feet down doing the same?  If we all had the same go words we could potentially set off a cataclysm of dog urine throughout the city.

It was my duty to think of something original to keep my neighborhood from washing out under a sea of pee. I wanted something dignified, mature and original.

After some thought I offered, “Close that deal.” 

While P. didn’t exactly bring the car to a screeching halt to celebrate my genius, he did nod and smile which was enough for me.

I was especially concerned about accidents as a few months prior to getting Stella I’d finally made the huge decision to buy a zebra striped rug for the living room. It had coffee and cream colored stripes.  I decided, worst case, I could handle Stella having an accident on this rug—but only on the darker, coffee colored stripes. I hoped she would understand.

Unfortunately, I was to learn that dogs don’t speak English and they definitely don’t have an eye for style. Puppies speak the languages of food, water and full bladders every 15 minutes.

Not long after Stella arrived, the zebra striped rug became a target with no regard to at least hitting the coffee stripes vs. the cream ones. But, in fairness, every area was a target.  This is because Stella, and all other puppies, pee like there’s no tomorrow.

Stella peed before, during and after eating. Before exercising and after. She peed after getting up from naps. And she napped constantly. Turns out, she was the best saleswoman in town; she was closing deals left, right and center. So much so that I began charting her sales levels to see how she was doing:

Day 1: 11 deals closed,  1miss (living room.)

Day 2: 15 deals closed, 2 misses (kitchen and dining room)

Day 3: 14 deals closed, 2 misses (zebra rug and dining room.) Managed not to mame her.

This charting would go on for weeks. And each miss, every time, was my fault. I didn’t let her out quickly enough. I didn’t recognize the signals. It was never, ever her fault. Ever. This was and is, I think, the number one take home lesson to learn on this issue.

As the charting continued the days turned into weeks. And then the weeks into months. And finally, we were in December when, at about the six month mark in her little cowprint life, all of Stella’s deals were being closed out doors.

The technical term for this, I believe, is house trained. If your dog doesn’t close a deal in your house for 30 days straight, she is house trained.

Hallelujah.

To celebrate this momentous occasion I made the phone call I’d been waiting to make since nearly day one. Nope, I didn’t call P. right away. Nor did I call any close friends or family. I called the carpet cleaners and had  the zebra striped rug professionally cleaned. For $109, I was left with only a faint, faded splash of yellow as a reminder of the deals Stella closed as a pup indoors.

The rug didn’t actually look all that bad before the cleaning. But for me it was important to realize a few things. One, the rug’s perfection was no longer of great import to me. And two, I did like being able to have some sense of control. I didn’t have to have a beat up looking living room. I didn’t have to have my hardwood floors scratched into oblivion. I didn’t have to put up with a couch coated in dog fur. I was beginning to understand that, with some diligence, some training and some patience I could, unlike all those puppies are hell articles, have my greyhound puppy cake and eat it too.