Missing our Doggie

We had a dog named Cooper, alternatively known as Cooper-doo, Doodles, Doopy, etc.  She was a sweet dog and now she’s gone.

Cooper was about 8 when she came to us.  Her previous owner had an underwater mortgage and abandoned the house – and left the dog behind when she did so. She was rescued, dubbed “Cookie” and given foster shelter by a lovely older woman who wasn’t much on walking dogs but really efficient at feeding them. Cookie, having spent some time abandoned and hungry, made the most of each and every meal. Needless to say, much kibble and not much exercise soon had her ballooning.  The rescue organization tried several times to adopt her out and she was brought back each time.  Too hard to care for; fearful of large vet bills; dog can’t even get into the car unassisted – they all had their reasons.  Enter the Andersons.

One day at work, I noticed a poster in some of the common areas, spreading the news a “border collie cross” was looking for a home. There was a photo of a lovely black and white face, heavily photoshopped (as we later discovered) to look like a bright, alert and svelte canine. We had a border collie already who was bored and needed a companion and wow, wasn’t this a stroke of luck? I work in advertising. I should know better.  But I grabbed the poster and called Mike.

IMG_2532A few days later, we arranged to meet up with the rescue folks at a local pet supply place where they were holding an adoption fair.  We identified ourselves to the manager, who told us to sit tight while they went to fetch “Cookie”.  Imagine our surprise when this enormous, ottomon-with-ears came lumbering out! She was enormous – 93 pounds, as we’d later discover – and could barely stand unassisted.  The rescue lady told us her story and was forthcoming about the previous families who’d either refused her or brought her back after a few days.  We talked it over and decided we’d give her a go – not without some misgivings, believe me.  It was a measure of the rescue org’s desperation, I suppose, that they waived the usual adoption fee. They just wanted her to have a good home. We hoisted her up into the SUV and set off.

By the time we hit our driveway, 15 minutes later, we’d renamed her Cooper and began what would be her new life with us.  Many things were apparent quite early on. Cooper didn’t know how to play – either with us or with another dog.  She’d stare in wonder at thrown tennis balls, mystified as to what we could possibly want her to do about these spheres we were tossing. She rebuffed Sadie’s every effort to engage her in play, snapping and growling whenever Sadie got near.  What she did understand was eating – and it was quickly apparent that we had a challenge on our hands.

Cooper had apparently lived on a diet of cheese and gravy or something of that nature. We put her on a sensible diet of weightloss kibble and she was not impressed. She’d chow it down in moments and then look around, wondering where the bottomless bowl of crunchies she was used to seemed to be gone. We added in a couple of walks a day, upping the distance every week or so.  She seemed to enjoy the walks but came home winded and tired, ready for a nap. We still had to help her in and out of the car and up and down the steps in the house.

our two border collie mixes Sadie and Cooper.

Our dogs, Sadie and Cooper. That’s Coop on the right.

She was, however, a master in the art of food theft, as we’d soon discover. I fed her one evening and left the kitchen, only to walk back in a few moments later and spy Cooper, the dog who couldn’t get into the car unassisted, balanced on her hind legs, front paws on the countertop, scarfing down a plate of sausage left over from dinner. While we soon learned to leave nothing within reach, Cooper had all sorts of tricks to get what she wanted – or thought she did.  She’d go after anything that even resembled or smelled like food. Over the course of a few weeks, she ate lemon-scented wipes, a box of Aveeno oatmeal bath powder, and a small bottle of neats foot oil. This along with a full pan of lasagne, an entire chocolate cake and the contents of the trashcan – several times.  Sadie, who’d never considered behavior of this sort, soon learned how many wonders a kitchen trashcan could contain. 3 “dog-proof” cans later, we finally broke that habit.  Luckily, Cooper also had the constitution of a battleship because nothing she ate gave her a moment’s pause.

Cooper didn’t know how to be a dog and certainly didn’t know how to be a dog on a diet. This made for an unhappy canine.  What she did have, from the moment she walked into the house, was a champion and friend in my daughter Siobhan.  These two took a shine to each other immediately. Whenever Mike and I would express even the smallest amount of doubt about whether we’d be able to handle this critter, Siobhan was implacable in her insistence that she was here to stay.  We put Coop’s bed in Siobhan’s room and a bond was set.

Over the months and years, Cooper became a new dog.  She lost a good deal of weight – 40 pounds in all – and learned how to walk, run and play.  She discovered the joys of chasing balls, chewing sticks and romping with Sadie.  She chased squirrels and rabbits aIMG_3551nd unfortunately,  skunks – getting sprayed in the face for her trouble. She wasn’t a particularly bright dog but that just meant each day was a new adventure for her, full of new wonders like the portal in the kitchen that opened up and let her go outside! And back inside! Where there was food! She was the laid-back and passive balance to Sadie’s often overwhelming dominance. While Sadie needed to be in control of all in her domain, Cooper was content to let everyone have their space. Even if it was her space they took in the process.

We lost Cooper yesterday, 12/19/15.  Old age simply caught up to her.  We were lucky enough to have 6 wonderful years with her – years she probably wouldn’t have gotten if that photoshopped poster hadn’t caught my eye.  We’ll miss her terribly.  Maybe it’s the years as a vet tech but I don’t tend to go on about “rainbow bridges” and the like when we lose on of our beloved pets.  We make the right decisions for our creatures when the situation calls for that particular kindness and hope that someday, we’ll meet them again.  Cooper – you were a good dog. Thanks for sharing your time with us.

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There’s a new cat in town

I admit, it’s been really hard to start writing here again.  As I went through the hospice process and loss with my MIL, that topic overwhelmed everything else here.  It was hard to write about anything else when that was the biggest thing looming in our lives.  Now that the immediate, tearing grief following our loss is passing, we find ourselves embroiled in yet another very difficult family issue, which, in respect for that person’s privacy, I won’t be chronicling here.  Just know that stuff is still hard and warm feelings and thoughts are much appreciated.

That said, it seemed like a good idea to ease in gently by talking about an easy topic: cats.

We have a new kitty in residence.  When my MIL passed, her faithful feline, AbbyCat, became our responsibility.  Abby is a rather portly grande dame of a cat – somewhere north of 15 pounds and 16 years, with a kidney issue to boot. She’s a mishmash of breeds but I’m guessing a bit of Maine coon in her history, based on her size and very thick coat, with a bit of ragdoll or siamese mixed in somewhere, to explain some of her marking patterns.  She’s lovely and when in a 1-on-1 situation, very sweet and affectionate.

new kitty sitting on chair

There’s a new cat in town and her name is Abby

The problem with Abby is she’s always lived a life that’s all about Abby.  She lived the only cat lifestyle, with a devoted old lady catering to her every whim. I can’t tell you the number of times Dianne would excuse herself from a family gathering to head home because “Abby gets cranky if she doesn’t get her canned food by 6pm.”  This was not a bad thing, frankly. Dianne was devoted to her cat and her cat was devoted to her – the importance of relationships like these can’t be underestimated.

But it’s now a whole new world for AbbyCat.  Abby is no longer the center of the universe; she now finds herself in a home with 2 adults, 2 teenagers, 2 other cats and 2 rather large and pesky dogs.  It’s big, somewhat chaotic, and filled with unfamiliar noises such as dogs barking (at everything!), cats romping, TVs blaring something besides Fox News – all of the hustle and bustle of a typical houseful. Gone are the predictable days where things stayed quiet, food came spot on time, no dogs were allowed and Obama was evil incarnate.  What’s a cat to do?

Surprisingly enough, she’s doing fairly well.  My husband and I had expected her to sort of hunker down in the bedroom Dianne had occupied and slowly wither away.  We’d been through this with another cat – a skittery little thing named Farris. When her best friend, our other cat Carson died, Farris simply stopped eating, hid in a corner and waited to die. Her kidney’s quickly complied by failing.  She was gone two weeks after her friend. But not so thus far with Abby. Abby is clearly cut from more resilient cloth. We moved her out of Dianne’s room and into our own, bringing a few familiar things that would smell like home for her.  She settled in fairly rapidly and now wanders the house.  She’ll eat from the other cat’s bowls and sleep in the sun when she finds it.  She’s still learning how to not be an only animal, however.  She’s made peace with our little brown burmese and Cooper-the-big-dumb-dog but Sadie, our overactive border collie and Mac, the crazy orange tabby are a different story.  Much hissing and growling whenever either of the latter happen to enter Abby’s space (like, the same room – Abby has a very considerable personal space.)  Our hope is to simply hit some sort of stasis where all creatures can be in the same home with a bit less drama.

We don’t know how long we’ll have Abby. She is older with dodgy kidneys buy we’ll do our best to make her time with us pleasant – part of a family. I’m hoping somewhere Dianne is smiling.

Why can’t my dogs ever get sick during business hours?

Our dog Cooper came down with pneumonia. Cooper is a dear elderly and somewhat dumb alleged border collie mix we adopted from a rescue a few years back. We don’t know her actual age but best guess is around 12-13ish. She came to us grossly overweight (94 pounds) and couldn’t stand without assistance, let alone run or even walk very far. It took a lot of exercise, love and hiding of anything resembling food but she’s now a much healthier 60 pounds. And I’m serious about the hiding of food – she was so used to eating anything and everything all the time that when we restricted her to a reasonable amount of kibble, she started foraging around the house for anything that smelled food-like. She pulled anything she could reach off the counter, cleared out the trashcans and went as far as eating lemon-scented wipes and two packets of Aveeno oatmeal bath. Thankfully, this phase has passed. And on a side note, I’m also serious about the dumb part. She’s a sweet old thing but this is a dog that’s surprised each and every morning when a magic portal to the land outdoors opens up in the wall and she’s told: “Cooper, out!” I suppose things are never boring when every day is new so she has that going for her, anyways.

our two border collie mixes Sadie and Cooper.

Our dogs, Sadie and Cooper. That’s Coop on the right.

But back to the pneumonia. Naturally, as with most pets, she used her instinctive cunning and wits to ensure she didn’t start looking truly ill until Saturday evening, at which time she went down hard. My husband and I watched her trembling and labored breathing and knew we had no choice – off to the emergency vet she went. Exam, X-rays, bloodwork and about $1,000 bucks later, the diagnosis was in and pneumonia it was. Luckily it was pretty early on – just traces of it on the lung x-rays – so things weren’t too horribly dire but she is an older dog so an infection like this can always be pretty dicey. Naturally, the vet recommended she stay in-patient for 48 hours so they could keep her hydrated and closely observed – at a cost of another 2 grand, btw, leaving us with a dilemma. Do we do what the doc is recommending, even though we really don’t have the money on hand or do we bring her and the heavy-duty antibiotics home and nurse her ourselves? We love our dog and wouldn’t want to risk her but decided to bring her home. I used to be a vet tech so felt pretty confident she’d get the care she needed. I also knew how sensitive she is to separation or strange surroundings and felt the stress might do her more harm than the benefits of hospitalization. And let’s be honest here – $2k is $2k. The vet wasn’t tickled but went along with our decision – giving her a mega-shot of Baytril and some IV fluids before sending her on her way.

This was not a happy creature. She didn’t want to eat or drink, was quite weak and had a fairly nasty cough (which is actually a good sign). We set her up a bed in the guest bedroom – which is on the main floor of the house. The stairs up to our daughter’s room where she normally sleeps were just a bit too much for her to handle. Truth be told, the stairs are getting to be too much for her in the best of health – she’s getting older dog hips and older dog vision so the trip down, especially, is a bit rough and tumble these days, but I digress. My daughter moved her headquarters down to the guest room for the duration so Cooper wouldn’t be lonely and we set ourselves to nursing the old girl.

She wouldn’t drink a drop of water I used a drinking straw to dribble water in her mouth, a bit at a time, every few hours – we’d graduate to a turkey baster after a few days if she still wasn’t drinking but I didn’t want to overwhelm her at first. She wasn’t much interested in eating either but that’s okay for a day or so. We set up a space heater to keep her toasty and let her sleep, other than occasional bits of water, antibiotics or trips outside. By the next afternoon, we were already seeing signs of improvement – she ate a couple of mouthfuls of food after a business trip outside. She still wouldn’t drink so we still had our straw sessions – which both of us were heartily sick of by now. By Monday, she was beginning to get up and walk around just a bit and by Monday night, she began drinking on her own again. We knew she was truly on the mend when my daughter and I came in the door from running errands and there she was, tail wagging.

It’s been a week now and she’s really back to her old self again. We took great satisfaction in letting the doubting vet know all was well when his office called to check on her a few days after her trip.

I should say here that I am in no way recommending that folks run about, willy nilly, ignoring the advice of their doctors whether DVM or MD. In this case, with this dog and this illness, we knew she’d do better at home in her familiar surroundings. All’s well that ends well, I’m happy to say.