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Thursday, September 27, 2007

A "Jug" at the Dog Park

So, Waldo and I found the dog park. Ironically, it's located in a town I lived in about 7 years ago. Back then, the town wasn't dog-friendly at all. And now they have this lovely fenced-in park specifically for dogs. Fantastic.

Interesting, though, the people and dogs you meet at a dog park at Noon on a Thursday. I was hoping to meet others who are young, hip-ish and who also work from home. No such luck. I hung out with Grandpa Greg and his beagle/basset mix Rudy. They were about to leave when we showed up. Apparently Greg and Rudy hung out for about 30 minutes by themselves before we arrived.

Coming in after us was Rosco, a "Jug". A Jug? Yes, apparently he is a Jack Russell mixed with a Pug. Curious. I had heard of Labradoodles (Labs mixed with Poodles) and Puggles (Pugs with Beagles) but never a Jug! He was cute, small (about 15-20 pounds, tops) and was a very fast runner.

It got me thinking though, about the notion of designer breeds. Apparently Pugs are often bred with other kinds that have a longer muzzle so as to avoid the breathing problems that purebred Pugs experience. But what complications are also being bred into the lines? Are these breeders accredited? How exactly does that work?

No offense to anyone reading this who has a designer breed. I, for one, have always been fond of rescue dogs and if I am going to write a check to buy a dog, I would rather that money go towards a rescue organization than a private breeder. Watson was a beagle/basset mix and I always thought that unholy union happened by accident. What makes a Puggle or a Jug not a "mutt"? Anyone know?


For some reason, I woke up this morning very angry. I must have been dreaming about Watson because I woke up and fully expected him to be in his bed. His bed is right where he left it, next to our bed upstairs. It's one of those things that I am not ready to put away yet, nor let Waldo start sleeping in it. When I woke up and returned to reality, I just got very angry. Perhaps the dream was stirred up by my thinking of him again while completing the Name Game yesterday. In all honesty, I have done my best to NOT think about him very much. That is my way of coping with his absence. He's tucked away in the back of my brain and thoughts of him pop to the front every once in a while, but for the most part I have it under control.

I am angry for several reasons. Angry that he died the way he did. Angry that he had to suffer at all. Angry at cancer. Angry at having lost our cat and my Watson within a month and a half of one another.

I need to go for a walk, I think, before my anger spills over into work. Maybe this is why I am fit to work from home(?) I have an article I need to finish up today and no interviews scheduled. Thank goodness. I get snippy with people when I am upset. No need to take it out on a stranger.

I read online about a fenced-in dog park about 20 miles from here. I had never heard of it and am thinking of bringing Waldo there today. I had planned to go this afternoon but I may go sooner. I need some happy doggy playtime.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Name Game (for real this time)

Okay, I wrote a week ago that I was tagged by Graham, Prince and Tilly to do the Name Game. Shame on me that it's been a week and I am only now sitting down to write it all out. (Again, procrastinating!)

Here are the rules:
* Players must list one fact, word, or tidbit that is somehow relevant to their life for each letter of your first or middle name.
* When you are tagged you need to write your own post containing your first or middle name game facts, word, or tidbit.
* At the end of your post choose one person for each letter of your name to tag.
* Don't forget to leave a comment telling them that they have been tagged, and to read your blog.

Okay, so I will use Watson's name since that has been the practice thus far. The only problem I have encountered with the name game is that I don't know that many bloggers so this game will have to cross over into the email world. (Or are there any bloggers who read this and want to volunteer??)

Here it goes:

W is for walking on a leash. When Watson first came to us, he didn't know how to walk on a leash. He'd get really confused and would often get tangled up in it by trying to step over it. It took a few months but once he got the hang of it, he was a pro.

A is for "Are you going to eat that?" I swear that this was the phrase running through his mind every time we walked out of the kitchen with anything in hand. He'd sit and stare... and stare... and stare at us, almost willing the food to fly out of our hands and into his mouth.

T is for tough guy. He had no teeth and couldn't open his mouth wider than an inch, but if another dog was getting on his nerves, he would always try to nip them. We thought it was funny that he never realized his impediments and always tried to show his tough side.

S is for sleeping! There were days when I literally would have to drag him out of bed to go for a walk. If left alone, he would sleep for as many hours as possible - without waking for a drink or a bathroom break.

O is for opening the bathroom door with his face. This is one of his habits that I miss very much. Whenever I went into the bathroom and tried to close the door, he would often shove his face in the way. He never actually wanted to come in, but just wanted to make sure I wasn't leaving. (No, there is no door to the outside from our bathroom so I am not sure what he was thinking.) If I successfully got the door closed before he could open it with his face, he would try anyway. I'd be in there listening to him bonk his head a few times trying to get the door open.

N is for nose. He was both a beagle and a basset. Need I say more?!?!?!

Photo book

I've been gathering all my digital photos of Watson since his passing. I'd haphazardly stored them in folders all over my computer. Appropriately, I have a folder called "photo dump" where I just download all photos to one spot. I've gone through and now found every single photo and video I have of him. As I found some favorites and rediscovered others, I've been putting in multiple orders for prints to Shutterfly.

I'm procrastinating with my pile of work so I just started putting together his photo book with the photos I have already received. I picked up a small 4"x6" album on a recent shopping trip; small enough to put in my bag and carry it around with me. I've been struck a few times of wanting to see his face, but was usually out and about at the time. I do keep some wallet-sized photos with me, but that wasn't good enough.

I've shared most of my favorite photos on this site, but wanted to post a few more. Here are two that were snapped near the end of his life. The first is him trying to take toy away from Waldo as he slept; the second is his reflection in an old mirror I have propped in my office. I have plans to refinish the mirror and, in the meantime, it's hanging out in my office.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Book: Remembering Ruby

If you happen to be traveling around the Blogosphere, please go visit Melisa. She's written a book called "Remembering Ruby: For Families Living Beyond the Loss of a Pet" where you can conveniently purchase your copy on


I know there was one more day to vote on Waldo's Halloween costume, but I ended it early. The chicken has won! Technically, it is a rooster costume. I found one at Target and couldn't resist buying it. I have not dressed him up in it yet since Rich is away this week. Canine costume humiliation is best shared, I think. When Waldo does finally don the rooster duds, I will try to take photos before he rips it to shreds.

On another note, I went for a job interview today for a part-time news producer position at I do enjoy working from my home office but sometimes feel I am missing out on a few things; namely (1) human interaction, and (2) exposure to new technology. Their offices are about an hour away by car but I think it will be worth the time and aggravation of commuting again. It is part-time "per diem", meaning sometimes there will be shifts and other times not. That is fine by me since my magazine deadlines are all planned in advance and I can juggle around the work during busy times. Thank goodness for this "global economy" where everyone works 24/7! =)

Taking this position may mean that Waldo gets to spend more time at daycare. He will love it since he has a basset hound girlfriend named Joad. Joad outweighs him by about 10-15 pounds and is a tri-color basset. When they are together, he does nothing but chase her around all day. Thankfully, he comes back home too tired to lift his head!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Money Talk

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while (no, not the Name Game, but I am working on that too!). This post is about money…. The dreaded talk of how to pay for all the love and are we provide our pets.

I hate to say it, but I would have spent any amount of money on Watson's care. Irrational and totally emotional? Yes. But in the heat of the moment and when faced with the option of more quality of life, absolutely, I would have remortgaged our house if that needed to happen. He was my son (in lieu of a real human one, anyway). However, that emotional surge is exactly opposite of how you are supposed to handle money. Over and over again I have read on various forums and boards just how many treatment options there are out there for cancer dogs. Only a few times has someone actually written the group about finances or even shown a hint of financial strain. It's almost like it's too taboo to even mention that, although you love your dog with all your heart, you just don't have the money for the best treatment.

Let's face it: we are not made of money. I, for one, am not a trust fund baby, but luckily I have a good job and tend to save my pennies. Watson was extremely ill for one month.... yes, he was sick before then but we just didn't know. But just in that 30 days, we spent thousands of dollars between diagnostic exams, vet and onco visits, medicines, extra special foods to get him to eat, the ER visit to Tufts Medical...... the list goes on and on..... I can't imagine the cost had he lived longer! Does that sound cold? I hope not, because I would have paid it.

My point is this: it is okay to talk about money and about canine cancer treatments at the same time. We like to think we are noble people who are caring for creatures who cannot speak for themselves; that money is no object. Well, money is often a huge obstacle, especially for households that are already financially strained. We may think it is too crass or below-board to talk about expenses. Should a dog's care have a price tag? Maybe, if it means you can't feed yourself or can't pay your bills because of the dog's cancer treatment. That does not make you a bad person in any light. But there are programs out there that can help ease the impact of financing canine cancer treatments. (These are just a few that I know of.... if there are more, please let me know and I will post them!!)

CareCredit *– CareCredit is a credit card issued by GE Money Bank. You apply for it as you would any other credit card. The program offers you a chance to finance your vet costs of $300+ from 3-12 months interest free. Terms are available for longer than 12 months at a certain interest rate (I think 7.9% but am not sure. Rates change all the time.) Here's how it works: Check with your vet to make sure they accept CareCredit (not every vet does). Let's say the total vet bill is $1,200 (low for a cancer dog!) and you decide to use your CareCredit card to finance it for 12 months. You will soon get your statement in the mail with that charge on it and have 12 months to pay it off interest free.

Here's the 2 "catches" with using CareCredit:
(1) They do not dictate how much you pay per month. Using our example, it makes sense to pay $100/month for 12 months. However, your statement will show something like $30 for a minimum payment. You only have to pay the minimum to keep your account in good standing, but it won't pay off the balance in one year.
(2) If you miss a payment or send in a late payment, your interest free terms change to something ridiculous like 28.9%!!! If you are not good with paying your bills on time, then CareCredit may not be a good choice.

Pet insurance - Pet owners in the US have been slow to adopt the practice of pet insurance. I think other countries like the UK are a bit more advanced in this respect. After experiencing the endless vet visits, meds and treatments for Watson (and the ensuing bills), I decided to sign Waldo up for VPI Pet Insurance* with the additional routine care rider. Total cost was around $230 for the year and it covers illness, accidents and some routine care. They also cover cancer treatments.

Canine Cancer Awareness* - This site offers information as well as a downloadable application for financial assitance. The site has helped many pets and their owners with expensive chemo and other cancer treatments. You can also visit their online store to buy items that help support their mission. Watson was added to their Rainbow Bridge poster last month.

HELP-A-PET* - Help-A-Pet is a nonprofit organization with a single purpose: to provide financial assistance nationwide for the medical care of pets whose owners are unable to afford the expense. According to their site, they help the physically and mentally challenged individuals, senior citizens, and children of the working poor.

There are also numerous state-specific and breed-specific non-profits who can provide financial assistance. There are too many to list, but can easily be found via Google.

Bottom line: treating your dog for cancer is not the path to financial ruin! There is help out there......

*DISCLAIMER: I do not in any way endorse these programs. This information is presented for informational purposes. I do not stand to gain in any way by directing people towards these web site links.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Candle lighting

As I had written before in a previous post, Pam from the Canine Cancer Yahoo Group just held a candle lighting ceremony in her garden. This is a photo from that night (posted by Pam). Over 300 candles burning in the night - one for each of our kids who has passed on from cancer.
UPDATE/NOTE: I did not attend the candle lighting ceremony. Sorry if I implied that I did. Pam lives in another state and I only know her through the Yahoo group. I saw this photo in her AOL album and thought it was a great photo to share with my blog readers.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Name Game

I've been tagged by Graham, Prince and Tilly to do the "Name Game". The
rules are:
* Players must list one fact, word, or tidbit that is somehow relevant
to their life for each letter of your first or middle name.
* When you are tagged you need to write your own post containing your
first or middle name game facts, word, or tidbit.
* At the end of your post choose one person for each letter of your
name to tag.
* Don't forget to leave a comment telling them that they have been
tagged, and to read your blog.
I wanted to mention it because I was actually tagged last week but haven't
gotten around to doing it. I am thinking I will use Watson's name for the
Name Game, but first I must wade through the pile of work on desk this

Monday, September 17, 2007

one month

It's been one month since Watson passed. The date was actually yesterday, the 16th, but I wasn't in front of the computer at all. We went to the Big E, the New England equivalent to a state fair, so I was quite distracted by fried food, airbrushed clothing and other oddities. It wasn't until I got home later in the evening that I realized the date.

Four weeks. It seems like forever and yesterday that it all happened. Truly, I am still haunted by the look on his face as he lay on the table. It was a mix of concern for me (like "why are you crying?") and a curiosity as to why he was lying on his own bed at the vet's office. He never took his eyes off of me, even as the vet administered the shot. A blessing and curse, that look was. I see it in my mind all the time.

His ashes are still in the wooden box he arrived in from the vet. I have every intention of finding his ashes a new, nicer-looking home, but just haven't had the courage to start the process yet. I miss him.... my Old Man. Waldo keeps me busy but he can't replace my Watson.

On Saturday, Pam from the Canine Cancer board held a candle-lighting ceremony in her garden for all the dogs that have passed on. She burns heir name on a stake and places it in Sierra's Garden, named for her own canine angel. To date, she has over 300 stakes. too many.. She asked everyone to also light two candles and place them outside that night. One for the living who continue to fight and one for the angels who have passed on. I did my part and lit my candles so, as Pam wrote in her post, the ones who have passed on can look down and see all the people who miss and love them around the world.

Ah, and here the tears come again...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Interesting article from Associated Press

Sep 9, 7:35 AM EDT

Chip Implants Linked to Animal Tumors

AP National Writer

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved implanting microchips in humans, the manufacturer said it would save lives, letting doctors scan the tiny transponders to access patients' medical records almost instantly. The FDA found "reasonable assurance" the device was safe, and a sub-agency even called it one of 2005's top "innovative technologies."

But neither the company nor the regulators publicly mentioned this: A series of veterinary and toxicology studies, dating to the mid-1990s, stated that chip implants had "induced" malignant tumors in some lab mice and rats.

More here:

Feeding Raw, part 2

So it's been a few weeks since we started Waldo on the transition to a raw diet. I'm still mixing in some Canidae brand kibble (*gasp* a no-no if you listen to hardcore holistic folks) because I can't quite reconcile giving him just the raw medallions. It reminds me too much like the Atkins Diet for dogs. I understand the explanation that dogs descended from wolves who ate only meat, etc, etc... but I still can't fully wrap my head around it. In any organism, carbs feed muscle and brain activity, as well as provide the energy needed by fast-growing cells like stomach lining and bone marrow.

Many of the cancer parents switched their dogs onto a raw diet or to Innova EVO immediately upon diagnosis. Actually, many vets and oncos say switch to the Innova since introducing raw to a compromised immune system would be too dangerous. I feel like it is dangerous (to a lesser degree in a healthy dog) after reading the pros and cons of the raw diet. The dog food manufacturers, of course, boil down the pros and cons to small bullet points. But there can be harsh effects to the human body after a long-term, high protein diet like danger to the kidneys, calcium loss and nutritional deficiencies.

I'm also torn because I'd like to believe that a dog's nutrition can equal a long and healthy life.... then again, our friend's 12 year old Shepherd eats cheapo Beneful (at $11 for 40+ pounds of kibble) and has no health problems. Meanwhile, the raw diet can get expensive in a hurry. Let's do some quick math. A 48 medallion bag costs about $13 USD. Waldo eats about 9-10 medallions a day for a 30-ish pound dog, so that costs us about $2.70 a day/$18.90 a week. Over the course of a year, that is almost $1,000 just to feed him!

Also, handling raw meat on a daily basis is getting on my nerves. As I had posted when Watson was ill, we hardly ever have meat in the house so handling his raw food is still foreign to me. I'm not sure I like it. Overall, I haven't seen any immediate ill effects from feeding raw but I also haven't seen any obvious improvements. I may continue down this path for a few more weeks to see how he does.

Monday, September 10, 2007

New Poll

Speaking of odd things in catalogs, there is a new poll up on the blog. Here's the accompanying photo of the two costumes I like for Waldo. Please vote on which one you prefer - pumpkin or chicken!

Platypus Egg

I was cleaning the house over the weekend and found a few of Watson's toy eggs. Way back when, I saw the funniest stuffed animal in the Drs. Foster and Smith catalog of a stuffed platypus that came with it's own squeaky eggs.

I don't have an issue with the concept, per se. The animal arrives separately from its eggs, which are attached in a plastic bag. You, the owner with opposable thumbs, are supposed to stuff the squeaky eggs into the animal and your dog has fun digging them out. A chicken or a duck, I understand. But a platypus??? Apparently they also lay eggs. Who knew?

Anyway, with Watson's jaw impingement, he took to the eggs more than the stuffed platypus (which now graces Rich's office at work). So on rainy days when he didn't want to go for a walk, we would toss the egg(s) down the hallway for him to retrieve. For the longest time, Watson wouldn't play (seemed like he didn't know how) but over time, he came to love "playing egg".

I'm not quite sure what to do with them now. Waldo will surely eviscerate them the second he gets them in his mouth. Perhaps I will save them for when he matures a bit and calms down... and I can play egg again and think of the Old Man.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Amazing Mali

I have some good news to report.... Mali, the beautiful wonder dog (see photo), has gone 1,000 days since she was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma (HSA). Yes, you read it correctly ONE THOUSAND DAYS. She and her mom, Ilene, have gone through hell and back. Mali is from New Orleans, and her family lost three cat siblings and their entire home during the Katrina flood.

Mali's mom wrote in her email to me: "Strangely through all of this, Mali has been a constant source of strength for me. When we lost our home and our 3 cats to the Katrina Flood, she was and still is the reason I got through it. Her battle kept me occupied, and likewise dealing with that flood mess got my mind off the bad and on to the good that we share.It's always strange what life deals us...but we are still here!"

When Watson was ill, Ilene and Mali were a constant source of information and tips on how to deal with cancer. Their support and first-hand knowledge were invaluable, and Ilene is on the board everyday dispensing advice and inspiration to everyone.

Here's to knowing that life can be really crappy sometimes, but that every once in a while, there is something wonderful that reminds us why we fight on. Today's wonderful is named Mali.

Warrior Musashi is now an Angel

I am sad to note that Musashi, a Belgian Malinois from the Canine Cancer board, passed away on September 1st. Sashi was ill around the same time as Watson, and his mom Yukie and I traded emails and posts about hospital visits and ways to get our boys to eat.
Yukie and her husband Brendan were with him when he passed. As many of us already know, our dogs will tell us when it is time. Sashi's parents loved him enough to see the signs and to help him on his way.
The photo here was sent from his mom, who wanted us to see him in healthier times. I do love his innocent gaze after he had apparently emptied the trash can all over the floor. Rest in peace, Sashi. You fought the good fight.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Crying over pizza

I was making a pizza for dinner tonight and one thought brought me to tears. Pizza was Watson's favorite food, especially Digiorno Four Cheese. He would sit and wait forever for just one small piece of this crust. He didn't have that kind of reaction to any other food.....

On the morning of the day he passed away, it occurred to me that I should probably try to get him to eat using one of these... but we didn't have one in the freezer so my thought was to cobble together a faux pizza from bread, sauce and cheese. Lord knows I had tried everything else..... I never got to do it though, and have not thought about pizza since that day. Tonight's dinner was merely an entree of convenience. Sad that pizza can make me cry.... but I can't help but wonder if I had not gotten distracted, if that would have been one thing he would have eaten...? I guess I won't ever know the answer, huh.

Took a break...

I took a few days off from the computer to enjoy the long, holiday weekend. I actually missed blogging, which is weird since I had never really blogged before Watson got sick...

I've been thinking about the Old Man every time I sit still, so I have been doing my best to stay busy. Sometimes when I am doing a routine activity, like doing the dishes at the kitchen sink, I try to imagine what it was like to have Watson standing in his usual spot right next to me. Almost like if I can think of him clearly enough, I can will him to be there. So far, that trick hasn't worked so well. Upon re-reading what I just wrote, it sounds a bit like the novel "Pet Cemetery" but I hope you know what I mean.

Any activity in the kitchen (aka "the food room") would bring Watson trotting from wherever he was sleeping. He was always so neurotic about eating that it bordered on comedy. If the treat were especially smelly, he would chomp first and ask questions later. It is an odd contrast with Baby Waldo, who first inspects whatever you are offering and then has to think about it before he accepts. Meanwhile, Watson would have swallowed your fingertips and gone for the rest of your hand....

But I have been missing the Old Man especially in the morning. I used to wake up and look at him, first thing. I never noticed that I did that until he was no longer there. It was just part of my waking. I'd look over to see if he was in his bed (yes, of course he was), and then I would wake him first by putting my hand near his nose. His nose would take a few quick sniffs and then he would open his sleep eyes. I'd always rouse him out of bed with ear rubs. I miss those ear rubs..... and the way he would groan - partly because he was not a morning dog and partly because he loved the ear rubs.

Lesley had left a comment a while back that time will work its natural course; that a few weeks on, I could perhaps look back and say "I feel better". I'm not sure if that's true yet.... I do look back at the several weeks he and I were getting up to go outside (because of the prednisone) and I don't know how we did it. We were both exhausted... I cried alot and could barely get any work done. So with some time and distance, that part of the sickness seems like I am looking at it through a fog. Like it was someone else doing all those desperate things to save his life and I was just a casual observer... it feels a little like an out-of-body experience. But even thinking about that time makes the anxiety and desperation lodge in my throat like a sour apple. That too feels distant, but definitely there.

I've also taken a few days off from reading/participating in the Canine Cancer Yahoo group. During that short time, several dogs have passed on.... It still scares me that so many dogs have cancer. They are like the amphibians of our environment - when our world is polluted, they are the first to show the effects of it. What can we do to make it right??