Still Wagging His Tail

“Can you please fit us in today? There is something seriously wrong with his face.”

That’s me pleading with the staff at my preferred vet’s office. They were kind and fit us in on surgery day. I had to leave Freckles there, though, until they found a break between surgeries. And I felt horrible that I couldn’t just stay with him.

Let me back up: 2 days before Christmas, Freckles slipped in our kitchen and hit his head on the freezer drawer’s pull-out bar. It seemed like nothing unusual. He does slip sometimes because one of his hind legs doesn’t carry his full weight. He normally just gets up and on with his life.

This particular time, after a few minutes, I looked at him, and I could tell right away that there was something wrong with his eye. It was uniformly brown, including the normally white part of the eye. In addition, there was something on top of his cornea. It scared me, but there was nothing I could do at the moment.

It turned out that there was a tear to his cornea—more like a little triangle that was missing. In addition, the eye itself would become infected. I was putting eye drops in every hour for 3 days. Then we moved to an ophthalmic ointment. Not fun because you actually have to make sure it lands somewhere on the eyeball and the dog really hates that procedure.

Nonetheless, we were doing as we had been told, and I was hoping that at some point that eye would start to look better when, after our morning walk, I looked at Freckles one day and everything felt off. It looked to me like he had had a stroke. The whole left side of his face seemed to be sliding off. And, of course, it was a Friday—with a weekend coming up. That’s when I made that pleading phone call.

About 4 hours later, I got the devastating news that Freckles had a facial paralysis. I picked him up and just sat with him for two days and rubbed his face. I was hoping that the stimulation from my hands would reactivate that nerve. By Sunday, he really did look much better. He wasn’t so off-kilter anymore, and I was cautiously optimistic that the nerve had started working again.

Today, 5 days later, I feel that we have come to a plateau. Yes, the face is better than on that awful Friday, but I know the left ear doesn’t move, and I’m pretty sure Freckles can’t hear in that ear either. He is able to move the eyelid (although he still blinks only with one eye). The ulcer that has started to grow on his cornea because there are no tears in that eye still hasn’t gone away, despite all the salve I’m putting in all the time.

And still, Freckles is his usual happy self. I can tell that sometimes it itches or feels otherwise uncomfortable because he either tries to paw the area or he tries to rub it on me, but otherwise, he’s happy to go for walks, play with his toys, eat (and slobber all over us). Our good, old dog is a real role model to us. I can only hope that we will accept our own challenges in old age as gracefully as he does.

 

Winter Trails and Mouse Guts

Winters are cold and long in northern Utah, but there are several advantage to the cold season: (1) we can walk across the mountains without fear of getting run over by trucks and other off-road vehicles; (2) no rattle snakes; (3) I can let Freckles run off-leash because few people are out and about, which he seems to enjoy so much that we both happily skip through the snow-covered meadows. (Well, in my case, there is not so much physical skipping going on as my heart is skipping with joy.)

Right after new snowfall, walking is a little harder in the deep snow, but with some luck one of those crazy off-roaders has blazed a trail and I can follow in the tire tracks. And while Freckles generally doesn’t care whether the snow comes up to his belly and he has to make his way through the fresh powder, he sometimes joins me on the packed trail. Recently, this was the case. Soon after we started out, I saw Freckles pick something off the ground. I raced (again more with my mind than with my legs) over to discourage him from eating what I thought might be poop (yes, he does this sometimes—I’m not sure whether he’s really THAT hungry or he just wants to show me that he can), I was surprised to see him spit out what he had just put in his mouth. Curiously, I inspected the rejected thing and found it to look like internal organs of some sort—all in one piece, looking like they had been surgically removed. Apparently, they taste so bad that neither the hawk that probably ate the mouse nor Freckles wanted to eat those. There was some blood, but no bones anywhere. It appeared as if the entire rodent sans guts had been devoured.

Not much later, there was a whole and very dead mouse lying there on its back, in the middle of the trail. This confirmed my suspicion of earlier find to have been mouse guts. Needless to say, I had to shoo away Freckles, who showed some interest in investigating the frozen rodent. I was surprised to see a full-sized mouse because mostly those hills are inhabited by voles, which are much, much smaller field mice. Strange, but on we go.

Before we were done with our walk, I spotted 6 more mouse guts. Now if that’s not  unusual—to see them all in my tire track trail! So I’ve developed a theory: whoever drove the truck thought it would be super amusing to watch the hawks (there are always several in the area) tear apart some mice. The driver or passenger or both (or more) must have thrown the mice out to “feed” the hawks. While the hawks were probably happy about this unexpected, easy meal, I can’t help but think that it was some kind of cruel entertainment for the humans involved.

I know I had to stay away from the area for a couple of weeks. I definitely did not enjoy the blood spatter in the snow and the internal organs. Still, I wonder why they ended up so perfectly untouched on the trail and why neither the birds nor the dog wanted to eat them (too bitter? toxic?).

 

Dear Freckles (#2)—

It’s been 5 weeks since I left you in the capable hands of my friend Diane. You don’t know this, but initially I wrote her all the time to see how you were doing. It appears that I miss you a lot more than you me. And that’s ok. I’m glad you’re not lying by the door and refusing to eat. Instead you’ve found a new, occasional buddy, Deso. And sometimes you get to walk on Deso’s paths and sniff his scent. I’m sure you can tell that he was there, even if he’s spending some time in Colorado right now.

I see a lot of dogs here in Munich. I want to stop and talk to them, but I’m afraid their owners would think I’m a little cuckoo, and so I don’t. But yesterday I saw this cute bulldog:

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Nobody cared that I stopped and took his picture. The fact that he had real water in his real water bowl was kind of funny. And although his bowl was in the middle of the sidewalk, people carefully stepped around it.

There are lots of animal statues around here: wild boars, roosters, deer … (Coincidentally, there are also a lot of restaurants called “The Wild Boar,” “At the Golden Buck’s” etc.)

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But the most revered animal of all is the lion in Bavaria. They come in all shapes and sizes. Most of them are regal-looking and very intimidating. The Bavarian coat of arms includes six, yes 6, lions and a panther.

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And so, one can find lions all over town, and I’m having fun photographing them. Some look a little sad because they’ve been guarding the same spot for hundreds of years. Like this one (although I think this one is from ancient Egypt and therefore several thousand years old, so no wonder!):

Toothless lion

Toothless lion

I’ll tell you more when I get back, which won’t be long now. See you soon, buddy!

It’s Raining, Cats and Dogs!

My dogs apparently don’t need to be told that it’s raining outside. They know and they use the opportunity to recharge their batteries.

Don't wake me up!

Roxy snuggled into a winter blanket. “Is it still raining?”

Freckles is tolerating Teddy on the couch next to him.

Freckles is tolerating Teddy on the couch next to him.

I am dogsitting my son’s two dogs this weekend, so I’ve got three snuggle buddies right now. And strangely that’s all they’ve done all weekend: they just lie around and sleep and sleep and sleep. Usually, this is a much more exhausting job. They keep me on their toes. My dog can get in and out through the doggie door, but our “visitors”, Roxy and Teddy can’t—or don’t (Roxy can, but usually refuses to). It’s normally a game of musical doors they play. One will want to go out. When that one is done exploring the yard and eat all the grass she (Roxy) can eat, she will bark to be let in again. When I let her in, Teddy will go out (almost without fail). I sit down to go about my business (usually computer-related) when I hear him scratching on the back door that he wants to be let in again. And on and on we play this game.

Of course, I also take them to the park twice a day, where they can run around off leash and I can walk around off leash as well, which sure is easier than trying to keep 3 dogs of various sizes and temperament and ideas about how a walk should unfold on 3 leashes.

So despite the rain and despite the fact that I actually had to wake them up for their dinner (what?), we headed out into the rain. Teddy was reluctant to even leave the car. He just hung around by it as the rest of us walked away. Eventually he caught up with us, soaked through to the bone. Freckles, who normally doesn’t care at all about rain or snow or sleet, made a beeline for the car when we turned a corner. We had gone up to the cemetery where it’s usually very quiet and there are some pathways you can loop around on. Normally, I don’t let the dogs run through the section with the graves, but Freckles just went for it. And it made me laugh. He was so desperate to get out of this deluge. In the meantime, Roxy, Teddy, and I forged on for one more loop. And Freckles, the good sport that he is, came running after us again, limping, but not complaining.

Freckles jogging in the rain.

“I’m taking a shortcut!”

"Get us out of here!"

“Get us out of here!”

By the time we made it back to the car again, we were all sopping wet. The backseat of my car, although I had put down a blanket and a towel, is a mess.

Brace yourselves, dogs, we’re about to go out again!

A Christmas Story

Merry Christmas, Everybody! I hope your tree is up, the snow is falling, and you are spending quality time with your loved ones (pets included, of course).

We got our tree up fairly early this year. Not right after Thanksgiving, but early for us. There have been many years where we didn’t get around to decorating the tree until Christmas Eve, which is fun too. No complaints here.

Anyway, so we bought the tree one evening, and because it was already too late in the day to decorate it, we put it in the back yard, in a shady spot, where the tree wouldn’t get too crispy during those unusually warm pre-Christmas days. Two days later, we were ready to get to work. I had retrieved the Christmas ornaments, the lights, and the stand. So my husband brought in the tree. I was supposed to guide the stem into the stand. And that’s when I could smell it: our Christmas tree had been peed on!

What were we thinking, putting a new tree in our back yard? Of course, Freckles was going to claim it immediately as his own and mark it as such. So, the tree had to be returned to the back yard. It needed to be hosed down! Chris went to work. Now the tree was sopping wet. It couldn’t be brought into the house like that. After its bath, the tree was deposited in the garage where we hoped it would drip off enough that we could eventually bring it into the house.

While Chris and Freckles went on their walk a little later that day, I carried the tree into the bathroom so I could use the hair dryer on it without getting laughed at. This really worked too! Pretty soon the tree was dry enough to be put in the stand! That night we managed to decorate it too. And it now looked pretty—and it smelled like a fir is supposed to smell! We were ready for Christmas!

And, no worries—the tree sits on a little table. So Freckles has not had any ideas of marking it as his tree again inside the house. It is way out of his reach now. And after all that warm weather, we got buried in snow last night. In fact, it’s still snowing. We’ve got a merry white Christmas! Freckles and his buddies, Roxy and Teddy, enjoyed a good romp in the snow, and now they are resting up so they can wrestle the Christmas toys away from each other again later. For now: PEACE.

A Thank-You to the Rescuer

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Last week I ran into Lisa, the woman who runs the rescue organization from which we adopted Freckles over 5 years ago now.

They were running an adopt-athon at the local PetSmart. I first noticed the kennels outside. A woman sat on an uncomfortable chair, manning the event. I passed her on my way inside to buy dog food, thinking I would at least look at the dogs when I come out. As I came out, I had a giant bag of dog food and immediately went to put it in my car.

Returning the cart to the cart corral, I spotted Lisa by the adoptable dogs. I went back to say hello. She not only remembered my name, she also knew (possibly from his former foster mom, whom I had met last spring) that Freckles had had surgery on his legs. How does she do it? She must see hundreds of dogs a year that are handled through her organization. She can’t possibly remember every dog and every person who adopted one!

I know that Freckles had been fostered by one of Lisa’s friends for 2 years (2 years!), so I expect her to remember him “a little more” maybe than one who comes in, stays in her system for a couple of months, and gets adopted out right away. But still… She also remembered his habit of wanting to catch balls (which is what eventually did him in, causing the surgeries). He still has a ball that Lisa bought for him when I adopted him at that same PetSmart. (Only now we rarely throw that ball any more, but he still gets to carry it around occasionally.)

When I mentioned this encounter to a friend who had also adopted a dog from her years ago, she said the same thing had happened to her. Lisa had remembered her and the dog every time they crossed paths! That’s amazing. A real dog lover. Somebody who has dedicated her life to helping dogs and cats. Somebody who needs to be thanked once in a while. Thank you, Lisa, for all you do for homeless pets!

Dear Freckles …

I wish you were here! We would be taking long walks with my sister and Joy:

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You’d like Joy. She’s cute and playful and likes to explore. And she’s small and although she barks when somebody walks up the stairs, she’s very friendly when she meets new people. She reminds me a little of Roxy, only she’s not as bad a Roxy. (Still has all her toys from last year, for instance.) And unlike you, she loves little kids. But she’s really, really afraid of noises that sound like shots or explosions.

Today, for instance, we went to the cemetery, and nearby there was a festival with loud music, and all of a sudden, we heard a noise that sounded like fireworks. Not even my sister could calm her down. She immediately turned around and pulled all the way home, panting. (And the two of us followed as fast as we could 🙂

A few days ago, we went walking in the marshes, where dogs can (but shouldn’t) run off-leash. We saw a grey heron. And, of course, a bunch of other dogs. You would have liked it there for sure. On another day, we went to the lake. It was a pretty cloudy day, but nice and cool—a really good temperature for you. We saw cattails, but that was it. (AH, I can see your ears perk up, but no, they are not tails of real cats. Just  plants that grow near water.)

Apparently, one of Joy’s friends has fleas. They like to migrate from one dog to another. I suppose that could happen anywhere. So be careful when you sniff those other dogs on your walks!

With that advice, I’ll sign off now. Hold down the fort! I’ll see you soon.
Sabine