Sunday, April 27, 2014

A new niche

2009 was a terrible time in our household, just plain grind-you-to-pulp kind of year. Sue had a soul-splattering, over-bearing job dealing with others’ money, where her only bonus was the fun 15 mile commute out to the suburbs on her speedy and shiny orange bike. Then in late spring, I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. It was low-grade (good) but large (bad), and in my lymph node (bad), so I had to have surgery and chemo. I had only been out of vet school for a year and I suddenly had to take five months of medical leave. The cancer year is its own monster of story, for another time. But what happened during and after because of the chihuahuas, well, that’s a tale for here.

After my mastectomy, I had to be careful around the dogs and my stitches. We had at the time one large, one medium, and one small dog. But they seemed to understand right away what was going on. Wren, the tiniest, slept on my pillow, almost in my hair, like a cat, every single moment I was in bed, which was a lot.  When my hair fell out, she slept on my shoulder, curled into my hatted head.

To this day, I tend to say how Wren saved my ass by sleeping practically on me.  She anchored me.

And later, when I was healed, and zoom out three years later and we adopted Tiny Dog, I realized Tiny Dog liked being in my sweater for heat and comfort, and I liked her being there for heat and comfort too. She fit exactly where my breast used to be, and I could zip her into my vest in the winter, and she’d fall asleep, content. I also had a prosthesis to wear out in public, but at home, I did not, and wore the chihua instead.

I would never claim cancer gave me anything good.  Cancer made me believe in randomness and not fate.  But Wren, then Tiny Dog, made niches for themselves, a kind of commensalism, lovely for all of us. And when Tiny Dog is in my vest, she’s right against my heart tick ticking away, her pulse fluttering back in counterpoint.

Friday, April 25, 2014

OURHouseOurHouseOurHOUSE (this is a bark, translated)

I am having one of those small vs big dog moments. Not inter-dog aggression, thankfully, but mental list-making. Tiny Dog is currently clawing my thigh to pick her up.

Then there’s this:

Atticus, 75 lbs, tall and lean, has become hyper-territorial this spring about our house and other dogs walking by, minding their own damn business.  This picture not only shows our spring pickup on the curb and the winter burn to the evergreen shrubs, but that’s a large jagged shard of missing glass plus side pieces hanging onto the edge of the window frame.

Scene: loud, sharp, fast barking from the living room, a CRACK, then silence.

Luckily there was no blood and he got the hell out of the way.

Tiny Dog is now on my lap, asleep. Atticus is back in another window, sleeping on a side table, head on the window ledge.

Guess who is getting shutters for the living room?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

How loud is it?

The neighborhood is finally quieting down a tiny bit because it’s starting to rain. Easter apparently is a time for triple dueling stereos, throngs out children outside, and my Georgie who just won’t stop barking.  Wait, that’s like every weekend when it’s nice out. George has taken her winter cabin fever and condensed into a new behavior of overt, overkill vocalization.

See the snow outside from last winter? This is what drove George to the barking madness. 

This is blurry because she's busy barking her head off.

Sue is at her wit’s end and is wearing her industrial strength ear protection with a built-in stereo. I have taken her hint and hooked myself up to my iPod so I can start to trim back the wisteria.

We are moving the wisteria to the front yard. I did not know when I put it in that it was toxic. Last summer I found Chibi rolling a seed around on her tongue and I quickly dug it out. And yesterday, George came up to me to present an entire pod she had found in the leaf litter. I call these the “pods of death”: as the ASPCA poison control site says that ingesting the plant can cause “vomiting (sometimes with blood), diarrhea, depression.”  Well not death, I hope, but you should feel very very badly.

Sue was moving the hops rhizomes to a more pedestrian friendly area (the mature tendrils are very grabby and leave red stripes on your arms that itch). Hops are poisonous to dogs too, a risk seen especially with the rise of home brewing. The APSCA states ingested hops cause in dogs, “panting, high body temperature, seizures, death.”  I caught George chewing a vine last year. I can’t leave this dog alone for a second.

The rest of the garden is in need of some new plants. I am a little scared to look up what greenery I already have to see if they are toxic, too, as well as to see what new ones I want to add in. Out is the moonflower and morning glory seeds to plant for pretty vines in the back.

Here’s a nice list of plants to scare the bejesus out of you:

You’re welcome.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

First storms of the spring

Fifty percent of domesticated dogs suffer from some degree of thunderphobia.  Well, in my house at least. (Sue says you can use facts to prove anything.)  I woke last night to lightning flashes, the thunder roll, and then the sound of hail hitting my roof. Tiny Dog burrowed out of the sheets, startled to a full-body tremble, wide-eyed, and sat on my sternum. Wren crawled back and forth over my neck and head. The other two, Atticus and George, they were sleeping like regular beasts.  Xanax helps Wrennie when the storms come through, but I ran out of the small dose size she needs. And I had my hands full massaging the terrified hounds anyways. I couldn’t abandon them in the middle of a storm, for god’s sakes. The meds work best before things get spooky.

During a storm, more full body contact is required to settle her nerves.
Their combined phobia is mild is compared to Murray’s, the dear deceased elderly stray German shepherd we had for a year.  Eighty pounds of black and tan handsomeness would push his body behind the couch, behind the tv, into then out of the closets, all the while drooling. Medication, petting, hugging his big chest, holding his bear head, covering with a blanket—nothing helped. After he passed away, I had my own mild storm sensitivity for awhile. When he would get tense, I would get tense. It was infectious, the stress.  

This is not a tiny dog. This is Murray, who hated thunder.

Tiny Dog looks hung over today, especially after her walk.  Poor sleep, the sky above unleashing scary stuff.  It has to feel random and personal at the same time for her.  I lay awake in bed, petting the shivering chihuas, counting the seconds between flashes and thunder, to see how fast the storm was moving out.  The weather passed over and Tiny Dog fell asleep tucked between my elbow and ribcage, Wren on the other side, also under the covers. I suppose I was their island of safety, and that makes my heart hurt a little, but in a good way.