Saturday, May 29, 2010


This week I came home on one of my lunchtime speed-poo trips to feed Haimmie and walk the girls, and found Arwen licking at sores on her hind legs. This just about sent me into a neurotic panic and I was about to call their Dr (and my boss) for emergency advice. Matt was home thankfully and calmed me down. Instead of a panicked phone call, I took a couple of pics and went back to work. As soon as I saw Dr. C, I couldn't help but blurt out in a panicked voice about my baby's ouchies. Had she been bitten by mosquitoes? Or maybe by those evil minions of hell - fire ants? These were the conclusions I had formed in my mind on the drive back to work. It had to be something external that I could prevent.

Now reason dictates that I shouldn't feel the need to burst into tears when Arwen has a hair out of place, but my neurosis just won't allow for that sort of flexibility. I didn't actually burst into tears, but as I was telling Dr. C about Arwen, I realized my voice had risen an octave or two higher than usual and I could feel the urge rising. The mere sight of my dog's blood on her snow-white fur made me scream inside. She sent me home with antibiotics, saying that the heat and humidity had lead to a skin infection that would clear up with treatment.

Ok. Calm down. You have your answer. But what about the red ants and the mosquitoes? Could she be wrong in her diagnosis? Oh no. You're doing it! The exact second-guessing that drives us nuts at work.

"But why would allergies make Max's ears itchy? That doesn't make sense..."
Or even better, "That's not what I read on the Internet..."

We've all heard it before. And here I was, my own stubbornness getting in the way. She only graduated from vet school with a medical degree, for Christ's sake! Why should I have the audacity to doubt her? But then I stopped thinking for a second and trusted my gut to trust her. I understand now the importance of faith in the client / doctor relationship. How they must feel sitting on the other side of the exam table with their own baby who's ill. That's alot of responsibility for the doctor. I know I couldn't shoulder it. But people know a good thing when they see it, or they don't and then things go south. Fast.

As for me, this trusting the doctor thing is new. I've been the same with human doctors, although I've yet to meet one I trust completely.

I took the antibiotics home and Arwen threw up sometime around 3 am on the first night. I vaguely remember thinking to myself as I stumbled over to the vomit pile that antibiotics weren't working for her and I'd have to talk to Dr C in the morning. But I was wrong. Again. Arwen's sores are clearing up. She isn't bothering at them at all. I brushed her out today and found no new sores anywhere. It's good to be wrong sometimes. And trust is even better.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Arwen is a comfort junkie. She lounges, rests, and stretches. There's never a pillow or pile of clothes that's allowed to just be left alone. Arwen will find it and lay on it. Her fur will tag it as hers. She's good to herself. And don't let anything get in her way. Nyxie will get the stare-down from the couch or bed until she moves to accommodate Her Majesty.

Sometimes I wonder how far removed she is from her genetic sled-pulling roots. After all, she is a spoiled rotten, pampered fluff ball that eats doggy fine dining and sleeps on a velvet bed. But then there's the walk.

The walk brings out the inner sled dog. On our walks, she's alert, sharp and focused. There are times when she looks back at me (yes, I am not the lead dog, but I would be in the back on the sled anyway, right?) and almost seems surprised to see me there. She's that intent on her surroundings. Her nose is working, her eyes are scanning for any movement. When there's something that catches her eye, a bird or flower waving in the breeze, she'll stare it down like a predator. Her ears rotate forward, eyes piercing and shoulders at the ready to pounce.

It's these walks that remind me of how fierce she is. She is a wild thing in a slow pack. The price for chicken, salmon and comfy pillows is not too high, I suppose. The belly rubs don't hurt either.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I've reflected before on the Texas breezes that blow almost constantly. Today blew in a funny moment you might appreciate. I went home to let the girls out and to feed the ailing ferret during my lunch break. Haimmie's on a strict feeding schedule that will hopefully keep him from having an ugly insulin crash. About 4 times a day, I warm up his beef baby food and mix it with water. I then make sure he goes down to the lowest level of his cage to eat. Nah, he's not spoiled either.

So I have to rush each girls' potty trip - it's really more of a speed pee. I have to make it home, feed Haimmie, walk both girls, and get back to work before 3pm. They don't get much time for this. Anything can throw this tight schedule right off. Birds, another dog, a maintenance man, a butterfly, you name it. And rain is right out. They won't even consider urinating when the grass is wet.

Today, the source of distraction was a square foot or so of white plastic. Probably the corner of a tarp, seemingly harmless and blowing past me and Nyxie just as she's ready to squat. Nyxie goes into uber-alert mode, ears and eyes focused on the windswept plastic. It tumbled and drifted just out of her reach until she worked herself into a play-barking frenzy. She was absolutely tingling with excitement, her nose working overtime to get just a slight whiff of this new potential playmate. She kept a good eye on this cool character as it blew off into the open field. It never gave her any attention at all. Poor Nyxie - a rushed speed pee and then to face the indignity of rejection. All this in a matter of 8 windy minutes.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Have you ever had one of those days where you tried to cram too much into a single day off? Today was one of those days for me. The plan was simple. Start the laundry, a bit of morning exercise after sleeping in, post office, lunch, a movie and then finally, some much needed down time. We got as far as the exercise part and then things started going wonky. I had a rushed workout at the gym, raced back to pick up Mini-Matt from Tae Kwon Do and hit the post office. It was closed - missed it by 15 min. We came home to move the laundry over and then I got a call to cover the afternoon shift at the clinic. Damn.

"Sure, I can do it"

We rushed back to lunch at our favorite spot, Sweet Tomatoes (it's become a bit of a Saturday off of work tradition) and then on to see "Letters to Juliet". Next we went to Wal-Mart where everyone in Irving seemed to be, and they were all pretty agitated about it, too. At the checkout line, we actually heard some people launching insults back and forth. There's a reason Mini-Matt calls it "the crap store". Back to the clinic for the afternoon shift, picked up and folded the laundry, unloaded the dishwasher, portioned out the dog-chicken, baked some dog-salmon (Yes, this is a hyphenated food title because it's the girls' and not ours. And yes, they get salmon, and yes, they are terribly spoiled) feed all the 4-legged creatures, and start preparations for dinner. It's now 8:16 pm.

And the best part of all this, is that the girls have been watching me during play bout breaks. They've been rolling about and chewing on each other for hours. At one point, Nyxie even cocked her head as all German Shepherds do when they give you that "Really?" look. I swear their mothers teach them that look when they're puppies, just to make us feel dumb.

Days off are great.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

On this Mother's Day, family is at the forefront of my mind. I'm reflecting on the good, the bad and the ugly of family life and I came up with a truly amazing realization. A common thread of all families is that they are each unique. That's one of those thoughts that seems almost to contradict itself. Like the freedom to criticize the government is a byproduct of freedom of speech itself. But I digress. Each family must be different in that their members are individuals. The melding of these individuals creates a pack that works together (mostly) for survival.

Dogs do this exceptionally well. They are accepting of each member and each individual's strengths and weaknesses determine their role. I watch Nyxie and Arwen work out their daily dramas with finesse. Gracefully, they find solutions without sacrificing self and pack. It's really quite amazing to watch this dance.

Resource acquisition is a big divider among dogs. Food, toys, beds, us. These are their potential fight triggers. Who gets to eat first, which toys each has to chew on at any given time, who gets to lay next to Dad. What I've found is that they are able to take turns with theses things and what might be a source of contention one day is not on the next. These simple, primitive creatures have worked out one of our biggest struggles: When to struggle and when to compromise.

My stepdaughter came to us shell shocked and had to learn to adapt to her new home. She did this carefully, as a new shelter adoptee would into a new family. As she becomes more familiar, she is expressing herself more confidently and showing us her individual persona more honestly. Of course, the pack of Matt and me has functioned beautifully for almost 10 years without human newcomers. We've brought in dogs with ease, a ferret, but a human requires more patience. A developing, hurt human even more so.

I've recently had an epiphany of sorts. If our pack is to be successful, we must learn how to integrate this new pup with grace, like the girls handle each other. Learning which battles to engage and which to let pass. See the lucky thing about our pack is that every member was chosen. By one or both or all, we were each chosen. The dogs didn't have that luxury with one another. We can do better.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Each morning, the girls have a routine. They go into their "houses" (crates) and then one by one they are called to the kitchen for chow-time. Arwen is always first. She has earned the right to watch the food preparation at the edge of the kitchen. And preparation there is. First the green dehydrated mix must be soaked to rehydrate it, then the fish oil, and finally the meat. This may vary from chicken to salmon, depending on the day's menu. Of course the meat is thawed overnight to be perfect for the morning. Each will sit and be told "look", signaling them to look at me as their Giver of All Good Things. Only then, are they allowed to enter the kitchen to feast.

There have been setbacks, though.

They go into crisis mode if the meat wasn't left out to thaw. There's much pacing and whining and attempts at infiltrating the kitchen. More time needed to thaw out the frozen meat bags. Lately I've been making and warming Haimmie's food while the dehydrated mix comes to life. (Haimmie is our resident special needs ferret who must eat at regular intervals or else suffer a severe glucose crash.) This is earth-shattering to Arwen.
"I have to wait another two minutes?!"

Meanwhile from the bedroom there's the occasional pitiful whimper. Poor Nyxie. She can smell and hear the magic happening, but she's got no line of sight. The 10 minutes or so of food prep is interminable to the girls. Every morning and every night.

They love their routine. They thrive on that predictability. Even if we were nomads, which Matt and I are in a sense, that nomadic lifestyle becomes the routine. The girls live for their walks, their meals, their first wake-up stretches, their naps with mom. Although lately, naps have been few and far between. Right now, they are curled up behind my chair. Arwen, predictably the closest to me and Nyxie just a few inches beyond. Even my entourage is part of their routine. Soon, we'll be heading outside for the last potty break and then bedtime. The routine means being part of a pack, a family. It's something with an energy and a life-force greater than that of just the one.

Tomorrow when the alarm sounds, the cycle, the routine will begin again.

Monday, May 3, 2010


A woke to a gorgeous springtime morning in Texas. Yes, Texas can be hot and brown and flat, but there's a breeze in north Texas that's almost constant. It's a light breeze that I never expected to find but by the water. As we're pretty landlocked in Dallas, I thought leaving Portland and the Maine coast would be the last I'd feel of ocean breezes and that briny saltwater smell. From our apartment on Munjoy Hill we could smell the ocean and hear the lighthouse foghorns as new weather would roll in. No such smell or sound here, but there is the breeze. Thankfully.

I took Arwen out for an early walk. She likes the dew and the smells it traps. The recent lingering trails of overnight rabbits, bugs and coyotes. I had the Furminator with me and went to town on her pokey tufts of fur. Arwen was in "ancient dog observation mode", and my brushing yielded mounds of white fluffy fur. She stood distracted, staring into the brush. She gave me no warnings, but I couldn't help but wonder if we were being watched. What would a wild animal think of this spectacle? Was there a coyote wondering about this torture?

Arwen lost a dog's worth of fur. She was mostly patient and when I was done, we headed toward home. Maybe it was my imagination, but I think she was just a bit more spry on our way home. A spring in her step. I looked back at the pile of fur and saw how it was spreading. The breeze was carrying it on into the brush. It would soon be part of a bird's nest and fill a rabbit dens for warmth. All this would come from one brushing. Rebirth, renewal, reuse.

As I walked Nyxie along the same trail later, she nosed through the fur still stuck to the tall grass. There was recognition, but her sensitive nose undoubtedly didn't need my visual cues of white fur. She knew Arwen and I had taken the same trail just minutes before.
"Fur? Yeah, no big deal. Same stuff's all over the carpet..."