Is Bear a weekend warrior?

As you might recall, Bear has arthritis. A few weeks ago, gosh, maybe a month or two ago, he ran full speed and came back limping. I wrote it off as he pushed himself too hard and caused his arthritis to act up. I gave him his meds and tried to give him rest, but he still insisted on doing things himself.

Between then and now, he’s been checked by the vet and we both agreed – time to try some pain meds along with his anti-inflammatory. Also, I decided to try a different supplement to see if it helps more with his joints.

He still limped – always the same leg.

Than I remembered – I remember the time Josie decided to be a weekend warrior. What if Bear had done the same thing? The vet has checked him out, and specifically checks his knees when she checks his hips, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t strain it. It might just mean he hurt it a little and if he doesn’t rest it could get worse.

So I’ve started a new course of action to help Bear and his limping – same deal as Josie got – confinement when I’m not around and no stairs, jumping or running.

Well, confinement might be an issue. Remember this? So instead, I put him in the same makeshift confinement I made for Josie. I just didn’t lock it. That worked great for Josie – she’d stay there for hours. Bear is different. When I arrived home, I found him wandering around the house.

If I can’t confine him to a small area, I’ll just confine him to the first floor. So I rigged up a way to block the stairs. “This will work” I told myself. My plan was sheer elegance in its simplicity:

Bear did not agree. I came home to this:

I decided to up the ante a bit. I used more boxes (ironically, the one that housed the gate I bought but had not yet installed):


Once again, Bear outsmarted me:


Time to install the gate – since keeping it in the box wasn’t helping.  It isn’t elegant, but it looks like it might work.


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Weekend Warrior

In her youth, Josie played like there was no tomorrow. She loved fetching and running around. But one day, she stopped giving it her all. I’d throw the ball and she’d turn and look at me as if to say “Really? Do you see how far that is? I have to run a whole 50 feet!” It was around that time I started treated her like a senior dog.

Funny. I bet that was seven or eight years ago – long before the senior moments set in.

IMG_1285Bear would try and get her to play. Most of the times, his attempts were futile. But every now and then she’d have a burst of energy and give him a run for his money.

I still remember the time she hurt her CCL (similar to a human’s ACL).

It was the weekend (why do dogs always have problems on weekends?) Bear tried to get her to play and this time, she decided to play along. She went sprinting at top speed.

And then stopped.

She lifted one of her back legs and refused to budge.

“Crap.” I thought. “Why? Why does this always happen on the weekend?”

Good thing it was a Sunday afternoon.

I picked her up and carried her inside. First thing in the morning, I gave her old country vet a call and set up an appointment.

His diagnosis was simple – she had strained her CCL. His recommendation: drugs and rest. Complete rest. No stairs. No jumping. No running. If it is just strained, it will heal. Worst case – it tears. Really worst case – the other leg goes out too.

Later that night, I turned on my google-foo to learn more. Apparently, it is a common injury with dogs, especially “weekend warriors”. Overweight dogs that don’t run around much, but one day they do and hurt themselves. Textbook Josie. At that time in her life, she was overweight (weighed more than Bear). And she was lazy – except when she decided to play.

The biggest fear I had was once one leg goes, the other does shortly after – since it is compensating for the bum leg. My dog was officially old, and suffering from old dog symptoms.

I worried a lot about her. She love jumping on the bed, on the couch, running up stairs. It hurt to confine her, but I did. I bought a crate (remember, Bear had destroyed the original one). And for a few weeks, anytime I wasn’t home, she was confined. No stairs. No jumping. All rest.

And she recovered. Good as new. Within a few weeks, you never knew anything was wrong.

Weekend Warrior: 1.  Bad CCL: 0.

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How’s Bear doing?

I was really worried about how Bear would handle Josie’s passing. Especially after I heard him howling for us after we left him home alone. So how’ he doing?

He’s perfectly fine. He doesn’t seem to notice her absence. (The prick.) Overall, I think he is enjoying being an only dog for awhile.

And I’m spoiling him rotten. Today, he went on a huge adventure.

The plan was simple. He had a vet appointment scheduled for first thing in the morning, followed by his grooming appointment. During which time, I would go to work, which happens to be 5 minutes away. When he was done getting all clean, I’d pick him up, take him home and return to work.

That was the plan.

It started out well. The vet was really fast, after all it was just a blood work check before getting refills on his meds. We even had some spare time before his grooming appointment. So we decided to swing by the office and introduce him to some folks.

He loved it! He got to meet a handful of folks and I got to feel like a rebel bringing my dog into work.

Next, I dropped him off at the groomer’s. Now, despite how pretty he is, I have never once gotten him professionally groomed. So this was a real treat for him. I was a bit worried how he would do, so I made sure the groomer knew about his arthritis, his seizures and his over all nervous behavior. She re-assured me he’d be fine and he’d be ready in about two hours.

That was perfect timing – I had two meetings scheduled at work during that time and they would end about that time. My plan was working.

As soon as I arrived for meeting number one, our customer popped his head in and asked the team if our 11 o’clock meeting could be rescheduled to 1 in the afternoon. My response to the team – “Works for me, but I’m bringing my dog.” Everyone was cool with it.

Around noon, the groomer called to say Bear was ready. When I arrived, she was busy working on the next dog while Bear was walking around waiting for me. She warned me not to step in the present he left on the floor – silly dog had pooped for her. I was mortified.

After picking up some lunch, Bear and I made it back to the office shortly before the rescheduled meeting time. As I enjoyed lunch at my desk, Bear made friends with everyone.

When it was meeting time, I walked down to the conference room, running into our customer just outside it.

“Oh my goodness!  A dog!” He exclaimed. “You are just the best thing ever.” He reached down and gave Bear a good petting. “You made my day. This is the best place ever.”

After our meeting, I realized I had another meeting in just under an hour – not enough time to run Bear home and get back. So Bear was sticking around even longer.

Before settling into work, we made the rounds. The reactions where awesome. They ranged from “Hey – it’s a dog!” to “Did I just see a dog?” He was quite the hit.

After the rounds, I returned to my desk to do some good old fashioned problem solving. Bear took a nap. He didn’t even budge when one gentleman exclaimed, “Do you guys know there is a dog up here? Seriously – there’s a dog.” I just worked and he just napped.

Towards the end of the day, I gave Bear a break and started carrying him up stairs. This included when we made my way to my final meeting of the day. At the top of the stairs, we ran into yet another dog enthusiast. He asked me how old Bear was.

“Ten,” I replied.

“Wow. He’s really spry for being that old.”

“Did you not just see me carrying him up the stairs?” I asked with a smile on my face.

He laughed and agreed.

IMG_0035After the meeting, I wrapped up things and Bear and I headed out. And of course, he couldn’t resist meeting at least one more person in the parking lot.

“I thought I saw a dog,” she said. “But he’s so quiet. You would never know he was here.”

After his day full of meeting people, he is now resting peacefully. Quite the exhausting day.

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Sweet, sweet dog.

IMG_4180Saturday appeared out of no where – officially marking one week.

I got the mail, not expecting anything.

There it was – a card from the oncologist. I wondered if they would send something, but I didn’t expect what I received.

I work in an office – I know how “the card” gets passed around and you jot down “Sorry for you loss” without a second thought. This was not that.

Each member of the staff, all that had interacted with Josie, wrote a personal message. The recurring theme in all their words: “sweet girl”.

Over the past year, I’ve heard that more than once. I never thought of Josie as sweet – I always thought of her as AWESOME. But, yeah, she was pretty sweet.

One benefit of a rough year – lots of folks now know how sweet (and awesome) she was – it ain’t just me.

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The dreaded call

I arrived early to work the Monday following Josie’s passing. My morning routine had changed drastically now that I no longer had to do all the little things for Josie. I pulled into the parking lot, parked the truck and glanced at the clock. Before going inside I had to make the phone call I had been dreading since Saturday night.

“Hello. How can I help you?” the receptionist at Josie’s oncologist’s office answered.

Josie3.20030125“I need to cancel Josie’s next appointment.” I said, my voice cracking.

“Okay – one moment while I look this up. Josie, you said? That is on October 20th? Not a problem.” She sounded cheery. “Do you need to reschedule?”

“No. Josie passed away this weekend.” I said, as the flood of tears came rushing back.

“Oh.” Her voice turning from cheer to sympathy. “I’m so sorry. I’ll let Dr. W know.”

“Thank you.” I said, holding it together a few more minutes to get the words out. The grateful words of a dog owner. “And thank you all, for everything you did for Josie.”

With the call finally over, I sat in my truck composing myself for the long day ahead.

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A few years back, some friends of mine purchased a plot of land. It had rolling hills – perfect for sledding. So a plan was hatched – next snowfall – we would go sledding.

There was one slight problem – we live in Virginia. If it snows enough to go sledding, chances are it will be melted by the time the roads are cleared and we can drive anywhere.

Luckily, in 2010 we had our chance. It had snowed a significant amount, and with 4 wheel drive vehicles, we all met up to go sledding down the most awesome hill ever. Complete with a tree line at the bottom to stop your descent.

I, of course, brought my dogs. What fun is snow without dogs? I did not however bring their snowshoes – aka muttlucks.  More on those later.

By the time we could all meet up for some fun in the snow, the powdery, fluffy awesome white stuff had turned into an icy, slick surface. Perfect for sledding. Not so perfect for paws.

That didn’t stop determined dogs. They had so much fun chasing us down the hill.

In the end, after a few runs, I had to stop Bear and Josie – the icy surface cut their paws. They still had fun. Overall, a good day for all dogs involved.

(And yes, this is where that awesome picture of Josie that is the banner for the site was shot.)

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The perfect sentiment

Back in February, the internet was a buzz about a picture Kevin Smith posted of his dog. He is some famous Hollywood dude, so of course people got all up in his business. The post was about him comforting his dying 17 year old dog, Mulder. Since I was facing the same reality, it struck a chord with me. What stuck with me, even to this day was this:

I’m reminded of a line from DOCTOR WHO, Series 2 – the “School Reunion” episode (which featured the return of Sara Jane Smith and the robot dog K-9, ironically enough): “You can spend the rest of your life with me… but I can’t spend the rest of my life with you.” And later, when Rose asks Sara Jane if she should go with the Doctor, Sara Jane responds “Some things are worth getting your heart broken for.” Mulder was beyond worth it. Fuck, this hurts…

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Four thousand seven hundred and thirty two

Four thousand seven hundred and thirty two.

That is the number of days that have passed between the day I first met Josie and the day she crossed the rainbow bridge.

Yesterday was the first day that I knew for sure Josie was done. She was tired and just wanted to rest. I made a plan – give her the rest of the weekend to see if she perked back up and if not, call the vet first thing Monday morning. I didn’t want her last moments to be in a random emergency vet’s office that she’s never been to. She deserved better.

In the afternoon she got worse and I knew waiting would be a mistake. I called a good friend to help, knowing I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own.

Before leaving the house, I searched for Josie’s collar. When I found it, Bear got excited – he thought it was time for a walk. He was less than thrilled when I left him alone.

I carried Josie to the car.  I sat with her in the backseat for the entire drive holding her close.

The emergency vet was actually pretty awesome. They were extremely compassionate and had a procedure that made the whole process, from waiting in a private room, to the paperwork and payment, all of it – easier to deal with. Turns out the vet tech that helped us used to work at the vet’s office where I now take Josie and Bear. She remembered when I first brought Josie in. I found that surprisingly comforting.

I checked on Bear about 40 minutes after I had left him. He was howling. He had probably been howling for us to return the whole time.

She passed peacefully, just like falling asleep.

I hugged her goodbye, thanked her for sharing her life with me.

I left my heart in that room.

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This time of year

It was a little over a year ago that Josie’s congestion started. I’m not sure when it started because I mostly ignored it hoping it was seasonal and would go away.

After Josie started treatment, the congestion went away. It would come back every now and then, but it was pretty much controlled.

Over the past week, its come back in full force and it is either worse than last year, or Josie is tired of fighting it so it seems worse. In addition, the constant rainy weather hasn’t helped.

A year ago I had a congested dog and I had no idea why. Today I have a congested dog and I do know why. And I’m amazed and grateful she’s made it this far. Modern medicine is an amazing thing.

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Pulling your leg

In Bear’s younger years, he tried his best to get grumpy Josie to play with him. His go to move: try and grab one of her back legs. She was never thrilled with this idea.

Ironically, little puppy Capone tried to do the same thing to Bear – he didn’t like it very much.

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