Dixie, a dog's life | Dogs

Dixie, a dog’s life

It was over 15 years ago and our family was not looking for a dog.
We had just put down our first family dog, Buttons, on my daughter’s fifth birthday.  We managed to change plans for her birthday and she went to sleep over at a friend’s house that night, but she knew enough to say goodbye to her.  She was the neighborhood dog and everyone knew her name and petted her and we were grieving the loss of a family member.
So it was a few weeks after that when we were out and about in the Southern suburbs.  We stopped at a Petco when we saw a sign that there were rescue dogs up for adoption.  My wife did not want another dog so soon after putting down our first dog, but I and our kids out-voted her and we went to look at what they had.  We are Lab people.  We like the breed and we like big dogs.  The purebred lab puppies they had were all spoken for, and in fact every dog there was spoken for except for one.  Erica.
Erica was a skinny little mix breed, part black Lab, part mutt.  She looked like a black lab but had four white paws and the tip of her tail was white.  She weighed about 35 pounds and we were told she would get to be about 40.  Her age was unknown but they guessed she was between one and two years.  The “person” who owned her beat her.  She was abused so bad that when they spayed her they discovered that all of her internal organs were bruised.  She was skittish of people.  She really did not like men.  When we walked with her she pulled hard and wanted to run.  As I said, we were not really looking for a dog.
So we took her home.  We renamed her Dixie because no dog should have to go through life with a name that could be associated with beatings.  For the first two weeks we owned her every time I walked into the same room she was in, she ran away and into another room.  She bonded with my wife and she liked the kids but there was no doubt she was my wife’s dog.
We were told Dixie was potty trained but when we got her she peed and pooped all over our house.  As my wife was picking it up she saw there were worms in her poop and we later learned that worms make you feel like you have to go to the bathroom all the time.  Once we got her the right pills that cleared up and she never had an accident in the house again.  She was a smart dog.
She also grew.  She grew big and strong getting fed regular meals and getting the worms out of her system.  She made it up to 74 pounds and for the past couple of years she maintained a sleek 59 pounds.  She looked the size and shape of a Lab.  She also liked to run and she was fast.  When she escaped from us the neighbors would call with sightings because she would not go up to any other human except those in our family.  One night she ran away and we could not find her.  The next morning our neighbor three doors down called to say she was laying by their patio door on that freezing winter morning.
Our neighbor across the street loves animals and she would always try to get Dixie to come to her by bribing her with a hot dog.  She never took the bait.  Two years ago when they adopted their first dog Moose, then a light switch went off in Dixie’s mind and she decided that our neighbor was alright.  From that point on she went up to her all the time for treats and love and belly rubs.  Our neighbor called her Princess.
A year later our neighbors adopted another puppy and named him Caribou.  Caribou loved Dixie.  He loved her.  He always licked and kissed her and greeted her with excited yelps and barks and was basically a pain in the butt to her.  But Dixie seemed to enjoy the attention and would sit there and take it and they soon had a May-December romance brewing.  Dixie loved Bart, though.  Bart was her first dog friend and a big beast of a lab weighing in at 95 pounds.  Dixie could spot Bart from blocks away and when she got older, if she saw Bart walking home with her master, she would follow them down the street until we called her back.
Two years ago another dog was given to us to rescue and she accepted Shadow into our home.  She was the queen, though, and she knew it.  She was the first to get treats, she always got an extra treat from Julie our neighbor, and her face and muzzle had turned all gray.  She was at a point in her life when she would go up to strangers at the dog park and ask to be petted or she would go to them if they called her.  She had finally after a decade or more, come out of her shell and was not afraid.
Three days ago we were all at the dog park again and she did her usual routine.  She went exploring in the woods, sniffed every bush in the park, greeted all the dogs that came into the park, especially the Labs, and she was happy to be outside and in her element.  She was in great shape for an old gal and we went to the park almost every day.  When it was time to go she did her usual routine and pretended like she could not hear very well and she would walk in the opposite direction.  Hey Dixie, if we say it is time to go home and you turn and walk the other way, we know you can hear us.
Yesterday I sensed that it may be her last day.  Her legs all of a sudden started to go out on her.  I walked with her down the stairs and for the first time she fell a stair before I caught her.  I carried her down the stairs and to her food and she did not want to eat and could not get up or stand.  My wife was at work.  She seemed comfortable and I was hoping she would take a nap and not wake up.  Alas.
I went over to the neighbors and watched the Green Bay game.  I came home and she was on the floor, this time a few feet from the soft carpet I had put her on that day.  She moved to our wood floor because she had an accident in the house and I could tell she felt bad about it.  After picking up the poop I told her it was OK and I laid next to her and cried like a baby.  I told her I loved her, she was a great dog, etc.  I then got up and called the vet whose voicemail referred me to a 24 hour emergency vet.  I called my neighbors and then my wife came home with dinner.  She too laid next to her baby and cried and petted her and told her she was a great girl.
I called my kids to tell them the news.  If she had only made it to the end of this week they could have seen her one more time.  I wish that it would have been so, but it was not.  I called them and they said goodbye to her over the phone as I held the phone to her ear.  They said later that I freaked them out because they had never heard me cry.  I cried like a baby that night.
The neighbors got home from wherever they were at and they came over to say goodbye too.  Caribou, for the first time ever, did not walk up to her and smother her with love.  I think he sensed she was sick.  There was crying and petting and of course Julie brought over treats, this time every single one was for Dixie.  She decided she could and would eat treats.  We took pictures and cried and said goodbyes, and then they left to make the long drive to the vet and to put her down.
I picked my baby up and brought her to the car.  I told my wife to drive through McDonald’s and bought her one of her favorite treats, a plain hamburger.  She knew where we were at because her tail was beating a happy tune.  She ate that hamburger like a pro.  We then went to the vet and for the first time ever, she did not shake like Barney Fife when she was brought into the vet.  She knew we would not hurt her and she knew it was going to be OK.
She was wheeled in on a gurney with held her head high panting and smiling and looking like the queen she was.  She was taken to the back room and they put a line in her vein and then she was wheeled to a room where my wife and I sat.  She still looked regal.  We smothered her with love and affection and told her what a difference she made in our lives.  The vet came in, explained it to us even though we had been here before, and she then administered the cocktail.  Dixie just laid her head down like she was going to take a nap.  There was no deep sigh, no bowel evacuations or any other thing we were told might happen.  She just went to sleep and died peacefully and not in pain.
I am going to miss her in ways I can’t put into words.  As I type this I am crying.  There is a hole in our house, a hole in our hearts and only time will make it better.  When we get her ashes we are going to spread them in the wetlands in our backyard where Buttons went to rest.  The neighbors will be there along with their dogs and I am going to buy them a big pint of soft-serve yogurt for them to celebrate a life well lived.
She had the worst start any animal could have in life but then she had a hell of a run.  She was with us for 15 years, a long time for an old Lab, and it still feels like she was taken too soon.  I hope we did right by her and I will miss her for the rest of my life.
RIP Dixie.  ?-2000 or 2001 to 12-13-2015.  I love you very much.
P.S.  Two months have passed since we put Dixie down.  We did indeed get her ashes back and we did indeed invite the neighbor and their dogs over for a celebration of her life.  We all had vanilla frozen yogurt and before we spread her ashes we all said some words for our girl.
The first few weeks after she was gone were tough.  I would look at the couch, her spot, and she was not there.  I bought my wife a big painting/picture of her and the other dogs I had made at Costco.  When we passed that picture we would feel sad.  The other dog was confused when she got to eat out of the Queen’s bowls, but she figured that out after a couple of days.
As time passes the memories are all happy.  She was a great dog, she had a great life, and I hope like hell there is a dog heaven so she would be there running and playing and enjoying her spiritual journey.  This was written for Dixie.  It would be hard to find a better dog.

Odds and Ends

I am calling this post: Odds and Ends

There is no overlying theme today.  There is no specific rant or rave or anything I am praising or disparaging.  It is going to be like a Larry King article, odds and ends, and I hope it is infinitely more interesting.

My son is home from college and brought along a friend from Cyprus.  I thought Cyprus was a part of Greece but it is its own free standing island nation.  It is located closer to Turkey and Syria than to Greece.  It is near Israel and Lebanon but hopefully the ocean is a big enough space for them to keep out of the crap going on in the Middle East.  They speak Greek, our guest looks Greek, and he is going to be going to a Thanksgiving celebration with 30 of our family members.

We are not hosting Thanksgiving but we will be hosting Christmas.  I told my wife that I would paint our dining room.  I have hated the color for five or six years and I want to paint it before we put in new flooring.  That way I can mess up the place and not have to worry too much about splashing.  My wife and I picked out a color but she wants me to do a pattern on it.  I don’t think it will be too hard but she likes to see me work harder than I have to.  Just kidding, her judgement is solid and I know it will look fantastic once I am done with it.  You know the best part?  I get to take down some old wallpaper edging!  I love doing that job.

We got a new TV and broached the world of UHDTV.  It is supposed to be twice as sharp as regular high definition TV but there is really no programming to go with it so who knows?  I bought a Samsung even though I hate that they use the TV to spy on us.  There is no opting out of the user agreement because you have to be in so that you may work the TV.  We got it for out bedroom because the old TV was small and it was not fun to watch TV up there.  Now we have a TV on steroids and the picture is incredible and the TV is a piece of artwork.  I am excited about it.

Other odds and ends

Winter is coming in Minnesota.  I have winterized the lawn mower and readied the snow blower and I am simply waiting for a big storm to come and hit us.  Iowa was pounded last week but we missed it.  In fact it is going to be 40 degrees today which really feels like a fall day.  I like when the weather is warmer, and no, I do not believe in global warming.

My wife has to go in for a colonoscopy tomorrow.  I am lucky in that I have already had that procedure.  It is painless except for the prep work.  By the time you are done cleansing your intestines, your butt is rubbed raw from even the smoothest of toilet papers.  The only advice I gave her was use a gentle touch when wiping.  Other than that she is on her own.

My daughter is supposed to show up Wednesday.  The poor cats.  They are going to get smothered with love.  She loves anything with a fury face.  She has been missing them so bad that she has a cat friend on campus who she goes and visits three times a week.  That cat does not like to be held so she still is missing the hugs and kisses you can give them.  For the next three days they will be smothered with hugs and loves and kisses.  I tried to warn them but they looked at me with indifference.

We are dog sitting tomorrow.  We already have two dogs but this one is a puppy and had high energy.  His name is Nikkon and he is as smart as can be.  He is also hyper and he bugs the hell out of the cats.  Maybe after Nikkon the cats will not mind my daughter attacking them.  There is usually an hour or so of getting to know the level of the pack and then the dogs get along swimmingly.

That is all.  A nice short odds and ends column.

An old dog

Tales about an old dog

Dixie (nee Erica) had a tough go of it at the beginning of her life.  When we met her she was in a cage in the parking lot of a local Petco put up for adoption by a Labrador rescue organization.  She was not our first choice because the purebred puppy was gone before we even arrived.  She was our second choice, though, even though she was timid and afraid of her own shadow.  We were told she had been living with a foster family, that she liked to run and that she was potty trained.  We bought a new dog collar and leash and took her home with us a couple of weeks after my daughter’s fifth birthday.  Our first dog, Buttons, had to be put down on my daughter’s birthday.  I digress.

After we got the dog and the paperwork we read through it and found out a bit more information about this dog.  She had lived on a farm.  When they spayed her they found that all her internal organs were bruised from the abuse she took.  We assumed the person who abused her was a man, because most all humans who abuse dogs are men, and that proclivity was manifested in the way she would not come in the same room I was in for two weeks.  She loved my wife, though.

She needed a lot of love to build up trust with us and she displayed new puppy tendencies like chewing up my new $100 dollar running shoes with my new $250 orthopedics that were in the shoes.  For good measure she chewed up my son’s friends new $250 orthopedics after he left his shoes on the ground despite the numerous warnings not to.  She also crapped and peed all over the house leading us to believe that the adoption agency was less than truthful with us.  Alas.

A puppy turns into an old dog

Well when my wife went to pick up one of the poop bombs she left for us on our living room rug, she noticed there were little white bugs crawling around in the fecal matter.  One trip to the vet and pills to eliminate the  worms she had cleared up that little matter.  We were told that when a dog has worms they always feel like they have to go to the bathroom, which explained why she pooped and peed all over the house.  The pills cleared up that little mess and she never again had an accident in our house.

Through time we noticed she had other little habits we had to deal with on a daily basis.  She does not like strangers and does not like men and will in general keep a healthy distance away from them.  She does not like strangers petting her but has never growled or bitten or acted aggressive when this has happened.  Over time she has relented and will sit (although her body language shows us she leans away from the love) and get petted and belly rubs.

She loves my wife.  She sleeps with my wife on her side of the bed….which is a lot of fun with a 70 pound dog.  She sleeps downstairs on the couch when my wife goes out of town.  She waits at night until my wife comes home and is at the garage door when she comes through it.  She does not extend this courtesy to me.  She loves my kids as well, but my wife is the bomb!

She loves to run.  When she was young she would pull hard on leashes, snapping two of them, so that we had to invest in a Gentle Lead leash.  Now her snout has a line where the Gentle Lead runs over it, where she has wore the fur down to nothing from pulling.  She would run and run and not come back for a day or two and there were many nights when my wife would go out looking for the idiot who did not know how good she had it.  She also ran when we let her out to go to the bathroom and we had to invest in a shock collar in order to protect her from running into traffic.

She was my running partner for about ten years, maybe a little less, until she was too old to run.  She let me know by not wanting to run the full route we usually took, by wanting to go home, by making me pull her a bit for parts of the run etc.  The day she could not run with me any longer made me cry because this was a dog who truly was born to run; she thrived on it and loved it and looked forward to it every other day.

Old dogs heading towards a sunset.

The past few years we have noticed she was slowing down.  Labs do not have a long life but she was a mix so who knows?  Right now she is either 13 or 14 (we never got a true age from the adoption place) and she gets an aspirin every morning and every night (tri-buffered for her tummy) and she is on Prednisone for allergies from early to late July until the first hard freeze.  This causes her to bloat up in the summertime.  She cannot jump on our bed with ease anymore.  She cannot jump down off our bed with ease either.  She takes the stairs one at a time.  When she gets up from a nap, and now there are a lot of naps, she moves slow as if frozen in place.

She can only walk every other day or else she gets too sore.  She goes to the dog park sometimes and while the other dogs run and rip past her, she ends up trying to trot, moving at a speed somewhere between a walk and a run.  She has lumps on her body and we really do not want to know what they are because what the hell could we do about it anyway?  She is too old for surgery.

She has come to love me, but not at the same level she loves her mom.  I was the one who always walked her and fed her and took care of her most of the time but I was cat poop compared to her mom.  Wait, she likes to eat cat poop so that analogy may not be apropos.  She does love me in her way and I know she is happy when I am around.

She is getting so old I know she will not last the year.  Like all the other animals in our lives it will be up to me to put her down and I will cry like a baby for a couple of days after.  Dixie had a hard life her first one or two years, but the last 12 years have treated her like the queen she is.  I hope she knows, but she is a dog so who knows for sure what they understand?  I like to think she knows that for twelve years we loved her as unconditionally as she has come to love us.  She knows she was walked or ran whenever we could, almost every day, and that we made sure she was up-to-date on all her shots and things to keep her healthy.  I hope she knows we bought her the best food and the nicest treats we could find.

I hope she knows that when she dies that she will leave a tremendous hole in our lives and our hearts.  I hope she knows she was loved.

An ode to my cats.

My cats are the greatest cats in the world.

Olie and Stan

Olie and Stan in their natural state

I know there are dog people and cat people exclusively in this world and I happen to own both species of animals.   We have had Dixie, our dog, for 10 years now.  We adopted her from an animal rescue place and when we got her she was 30 pounds under weight, she had worms, and when they spayed her they found all her internal organs had been bruised.  She avoided me for the first two weeks she lived with us so we figured a guy did the beatings.  She has had issues her whole life but overall has been a great dog.  She replaced another wonderful dog we had named Buttons.  I will talk about her at some other time.

We also had two cats long ago named Basil and Nigel, named after Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce who played Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in the movies.  They shuffled off this mortal coil a few years ago and for the longest time we were only a dog family.  That is until Stan and Ollie entered our lives.

Stan and Olie, nee Sven and Ole, came to us via a friends dad who had them for only a month or two before he had to move to a nursing home.  We rescued then in a way because the brother who gave their dad the cats swore up and down he would take them in his own home if anything happened to their dad but when the shit hit it, he said he was going to put the cats in a shelter.  Our friend who is an animal lover but has three dogs at her house, thought of us and she showed up one night with two Siamese Seal Point cats.  They had the clichéd names of Sven and Ole (we being from Minnesota) and we promptly renamed the cats Stan and Olie after Laurel and Hardy.

New Cats in our lives, new for the dog as well.

They showed up at our door in a kitty carrier meowing and bellowing at the injustice in the world.  We had been free of cats for a couple of years so we had to scramble to find the old liter box and we had to go buy cat supplies.  Deer Point Siamese cats are stunningly beautiful.  They look like they are dressed like James Bond.  They are a luxurious tan color with dark faces, a dark stripe running down their bellies and dark ears.  Stan is the plump one, less athletic and he meows like a mouse squeaking in the corner.  Olie is the athletic one, lithe and agile and he can leap four feet into the air if there happens to be a string hanging above his head.

When we got them they were only six months old.  They were kittens.  The dog, who was about 10 years old at the time, looked at us as if we had really screwed the pooch this time.  Dixie was content in her world, content to relax, content for the attention, and she certainly did not look kindly upon the interruption in her domestic bliss by the new cats.  She ended up being a good sport about it and after a week of chasing and playing they soon became fast friends and now you can find them napping together in the afternoon under a window and getting baked by the sun.  they all have pretty good lives.

The cats do what the cats do and humans have to accept it.

This means that the cats have an independent streak.  They only come when my kids call them.  When they hear the voices of my kids and they hear their names, they both come running to them.  They answer to me in the mornings when it is time for their morning treats.  They love the new hard treats from Wiskas called “Temptations.”  They come in about eight different flavors and we end up buying them one of each until the supply runs dry.  Stan will come to me in the morning when he sees me opening my eyes, and he will come next to me and start to purr loudly and he will want to be petted.  Olie sometimes comes to me when I go to bed at night and am trying to read and he plants himself upon my book to ensure that I notice him.  He loves to have his belly petted and turns over, closes his eyes, and purrs in contentment when I pet him.  Both cats love attention but both cats love attention on their terms.

During the day the cats tend to sleep a lot.  You will find them either cuddled up together in a box or on a chair, most likely in a ray of sunlight coming through the windows, and they will  lay there for hours content.  They are active in the morning when they get their treats but once the cats are fed they are off to slumber for the better part of the day.  Sometimes I will find them curled up next to Dixie in the sun soaking up the warmth.

As an aside when we first got the cats Dixie was not quite sure what to do with them.  They were not dogs, she knew that much.  They did not look like her.  One of the cats was brave and he came up to Dixie and would rub her face and purr in the way that cats show love and affection.  Dixie would try to emulate the purring and let out this low and quiet growl but after about six times she figured it did nothing for her and stopped it.  It was so cute!

When the kids come home now from school the cats are there to great them.  They get excited and run back and forth greeting them.  Like I mentioned early the only way the cats answer to their names are if the kids call them.  The kids then feed off of this and they play with the cats and everyone is happy.  Towards dinner time is when the cats get fed a bit of wet food.  This is odd because the skinny cat eats like a horse and is always skinny and the fat cat (really just plump) hardly eats a thing.  Before they are fed the skinny one will sit on the counter and stare at us or start talking to us until he gets fed.  Once he is fat and happy he will come sit on our laps while we are watching TV or we will see the cats chase each other like raped apes.  They are brothers, they came from he same liter, yet they are utterly different in personality, body-type and attitude.  One talks much more than the other, one is more athletic than the other, one eats more than the other, and one like attention more than the other.

Overall our cats have figured out they have a pretty good life.  They seem to love living with us and they seem to show us affection in their ways and at their times.  They tolerate the dog and the dog does the same with them.  At night they get a little more wild and you can hear the cats hissing and screaming while they are wrestling and biting each others’ balls.

I love my cats.