Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Believe me, this is the best I could do. She's terrified of the camera. But Wren's back, neck and skull are caked with a thick dark stinky gleam, picked up rolling in the grass today on our walk. I wasn't fast enough to stop it.

She was exuberant on the rest of the walk.

Now she is not.

And now she's bedraggled, and lying on my foot. I can smell a spot on the top of her head that I missed but I am going to ignore it and wonder this instead:

Is she right-handed? how come she always gets the most goo on the right side of her body?

She is now damp and sad but would do it again.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Weird week

First, it was the stray conure on the shoulder of a person in the clinic lobby. Then came the text from Sue, while dog sitting, that she found a dead and endangered rattlesnake.

The small South American parrot was tame and friendly, black-headed, a Nanday, with a green body and electric blue flight feathers. It sat on my shoulder, picking gently at my neck, then went to the shelter to hopefully find its home again. It was lucky—most tame birds when out, never come back. The snake, well—it turned out to be not “as wide around as a soup can” as Sue reported. It was 2 cm around, likely a Western fox snake, dead of no apparent trauma, tucked in the leaves. How our hearts wish for the extreme. 

Or it’s that deep-seated flee response, ingrained in our genes. The chocolate lab she was walking really really wanted it.

I used to play this involuntary mental game while driving: what is that thing in the road? Snake or hose? Porcupine or sod clump? This time it was indeed snake, and previously mentioned, a bird. I first heard the parrot’s calls from the clinic parking lot and since the weather was warm, I thought it was from inside a nearby house, by a window.

Two stunned women came into the clinic lobby, the bird on one’s shoulder. They asked: what is it? How could this happen? Now what?

And with the snake: the same questions.

I am no Pollyanna, but I am relieved the bird is safe and being fed and kept warm. And I glad it was no rattlesnake, not because I don’t like them; just the opposite; I am glad a rare creature is not dead.

In vet school, while I was on the special species rotation (aka “exotics”), a guy came in with rattlers in a bag. They were timber rattlesnakes, Crotalus horridus, lovely species name: horrid. No judgement there. Humans had killed almost all of them. But this man was collecting them, having the vet school anesthesitize each, so a tracking device could be surgically implanted, to monitor a protected species. I do not like surgery; I did not volunteer, but I watched. One snake at a time was placed in a closed end, clear tube that contained its viperous poisoned fangs, and it was given gas anesthesia. When asleep, the vet student cut between its scales, placed the device and sewed it back up. And back in the bag it went.

Here’s for hope in a sack. And in a flighted, lost bird. (And here’s my own stray foundling.)

Aka Sweet William, a dusky headed conure, 2009, found on the UW campus. Now lives half the year in Georgia, lucky guy.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

What the kid-self wished for

In the past 15 years, I’ve had the pleasure of living with eight dogs. Just what I hoped my life was going to be, a house full of pets, up to four at a time. My past kid self is pleased with my future adult self.

The big dogs: Ouzel, the lab-golden, Taiko Chan Fuzzy-wiggle, the Rottie-border collie, Murray, the ancient German shepherd, Atticus Finch Esq., the likely shepherd-boxer.

Wren, new on the scene, the gateway chihuaua. Gracie, unnerved, the camera a worry.

Then the smaller, from six to 30 pounds: Gracie Lucille, possibly whippet-Jack Russell, Wren, chi-terrier, George Eliot, chiweenie, and Chibi Lillet, chihuahua.

My first dog was 80 pounds, the newest six. It’s a clear weight trajectory, with a few shepherds thrown in to mess up the trend.

I have had a chance to see over and over their utter forgiveness and willingness to trust, after moving to a new home with me. Their eyes light up at the offer of a walk. They clean up all the dropped food in the kitchen. They hog the the bed, but I am never alone when I nap.

As a vet, I have had these dogs as teachers too. Each has had its own set of sufferings, large and small. Three with storm phobia, one with severe sound sensitivity, two with fear aggression, four with territorial aggression. Two with hemoabdomen, one with hemothorax. One with acute paralysis. One with allergies and dry eye. Three with luxating patellas. One with pancreatitis. One with a slow-healing eye ulcer. One with food obsession. Two with leash reactivity. Two with incessant dental disease.

And what to make of these enumerations?

A spark lights in my chest when I see these pups when I get home. Every single time. They are the best part of my day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


She is uncertain. The new sling (Care4Dogs on Etsy, hello, Netherlands!) is soft, cozy, but a new sensation, a hammock that moves as I move, swings as I turn. I love having my hands free. Nice modeling, eh?, my work scrubs and name tag.

This is what she is used to, close to the chest:

Tucked in my sweater. As you can see, she falls easily asleep there, and prefers it to my lap.

I was hoping to see if she'd like to sling as I biked. I had imagined us on a 3-speed beach bike, lazily pedaling through the summer. And even to work. I do not yet have a beach bike, but I am going to sit her down and have a serious talk about future transportation options.

This is how we made it through the coldest days of winter: my puffy long, middle-aged suburban mom coat, a fleece-lined wool hat with ear flaps, a fleece cowl; Tiny Dog in two coats, a hat, and zipped into my down coat. Here we are leaving work, after dark, the light on in the car:

Now with the lilacs blooming, is it optimistic to remove the windshield ice scraper, the small snow shovel, and back-up mittens from the car?

Friday, May 8, 2015

You're welcome

But it's not what it seems.

Wren has a new outcropping of warts along her back, from neck to tail, like a virus outbreak. She's madly trying to get at the one on her tail. It sucks to get old.

And: the bird wrens are back on the block, feisty as ever.

Saturday, May 2, 2015


It’s my favorite time of the year—the lilacs are about to bloom, it's still cool in evenings so no mosquitoes, the extending days means it's light out when I get home, and there's new foliage on the deciduous trees. The red maple out front—its small, growing leaves wave like the hands of toddlers. The dogs can spend all day in the yard when I’m home, and I wake to sounds of chipping sparrows, a catbird, robins, cardinals.

Tiny Dog came back to work this week after three weeks away (Chicago dog influenza outbreak). She was initially crabby with dogs and then slept tucked away. On Wednesday, she would not eat, not treats, not canned food. Finally, she had a scrambled egg at 3 pm. I tend to get worked up about her poor appetite since she had pancreatitis a few years ago, and that disease can span from mild, managed with medications, to severe, in the ER on IVs, barely hanging on.

The meds did the trick, and by Thursday, food was something she danced for again. I blame the dog toothpaste I decide to use to finally start brushing her teeth. The critter is delicate.

Spring. Folks have optimism again. The garden store was packed, and I carried Tiny Dog with me today, as riding in the plant-carrying red wagon sent fear into her heart. Strangers stopped to pet her, and she loved it, others rubbing her velvet chest and head, as she relaxed in my arm. I forgot her leash, so her preferred mode of transport was enacted.

We left with herbs to plant, and I swoon smelling the leaves of rosemary, lavender and thyme. We’re not in the clear yet from frost warnings, so I haven’t planted any seeds yet. But I can feel it—renewal smacks you in the face. The trees are no longer bare and people smile at you on the bike path, especially when Tiny Dog’s along, walking again on her leash, instead of hidden in the warmth of my coat.