Borrowed Time

g6XuJI4HSVOSmkQfqdnHZAI have been wanting to write about my friend Ridley but I have been putting it off as I have been with ALL my writing ideas. If I keep putting off writing about Ridley it might be too late as Ridley is living on borrowed time. Ridley isn’t a human friend he is a canine one – and sometimes they are the best friends to have.

Ridley came to us at the ripe old age of 10 – he turned 11 just a couple months after his arrival. I love to adopt senior dogs. I have a heart for them.  Ridley never has acted like an old dog though. It is a breed thing I think. I should mention Ridley is an Old English Sheepdog (OES)- likely backyard bred. I say this because he is a big gangly guy – all legs that splay out in awkward positions when he lays down – and lets just say he is not bright- but he is affable and funny and loving.

Ridley is now almost 15 years old and he is failing.  His back legs are to a point where he is unable to get himself up – though once in a while something motivates him and he gets up on his own. He takes meds to help with any pain issues – and aside from his hips being sore when he goes to lay down he doesn’t seem to be in pain. He is having issues with pottying.  He wears a belly pad and that helps some. He just was diagnosed with whip worm and is being treated. Let me tell you that is not something you want your dog to get! Food goes right though them.  Last month it was a skin bacterial infection. His immune system is likely not what it once was.

%kqNJCSjQuywdRxOrbXWbQ

One of his last beach walks. We try to get him out to the bay each trip. Kevin carries him up and down the walkway steps.

We have thought a million times – this is Ridleys last trip to the beach, last walk to see the chickens, last this and last that- but we have been wrong.  Ridley is tenacious – and alert- still funny- and it is for these reasons he is still with us. He is involved in life. But it is getting to the point where we may have to make a hard choice to let him go even if he is still happy and engaged. If he can’t hold himself up at all that will be a problem. I can’t lift him really- I do it but it can flare up my pain.  But at least once up he can motor around ok. He can also motor on his butt and scoot along. People think it is sad- I think it speaks to his determination and his engagement in life. It tells me he is still in the game. He doesn’t want to give up. And that is what makes knowing when to let him go so hard.

Kevin and I are Rid’s prime caretakers and we can’t really go anywhere and leave him with someone else. Our son can take care of him for a night or two- but forget it if we wanted to travel for longer. Believe me, we don’t want to put him down for our own selfish reasons.  I am trying to let him squeeze as much time in this life as I can. But I also want to be a good steward to him.  But there is that self check where we have to make sure we are keeping him alive for him and not for us. Once the scales tip towards keeping him alive to avoid feeling the grief of his loss then I know its time. We aren’t quite there yet but its closing in. I never want to be selfish with his life.

Sadly this is likley our last sheep dog. We are trying to downsize our dog population (we have 5 and mom who lives with us has one) so we wont be “backfilling” when we lose one of the gang we have now.

de96Q9qtS1WolqKjBBgNLA

The Gang- Rudy, Pierce, Ridley, Reese, And Lemon

The significance of Ridley coming to our home will always be an important part of his story.  He was preceded here by an amazing OES named Dave. Dave was my heart dog..he was part of me and he took part of me with him when he left. Dave was sheepdog through and through…he was stubborn and he never listened but somehow he mostly did what you wanted him to do- but it was always his choice. Dave bit me and bit Kevin on a couple occasions when we went to retrieve some item he shouldn’t have that he was trying to ingest. Mostly it was napkins but once he got a plastic baggie- unbeknownst to us – that was a pricey vet visit and an uncomfortable few days as we waited for it to pass.

IMG_2458

Dave and Rudy years ago

Dave had those OES traits and many good ones. I became his job. I was his person and he was my friend. I loved that guy. Before he left he trained my Golden Rudy about how to take over being my companion.  Rudy has done a great job – he is always at my side-  and  welcomed Ridley  – maybe with some jealousy . Ridley also decided I was his person so is with us most of the time – and Rudy has shared me.  So most of the time in my office it is Me, Rudy, and Ridley. It will feel empty  -literally and figuratively – when he is gone.

So back to the significance of his being here. I told you about Dave- but there was another OES after Dave. We had an OES for 4 days. We got him from a NC rescue group who basically had no idea what they were doing and they allowed a dog that had bitten his foster carer to be adopted.  Long story short- Kevin was attacked by this dog when he went to put a leash on -and the dog went after him. There was no warning growl – nothing.  I had stepped away for just a minute and I heard Kevin yell and ran to see this dog biting and biting my husband. No growls – just an attack. Kevin got away and had significant wounds- he has a hand disfigurement still to this day. He was ill with infection for days- almost was hospitalized- probably he should have been. It was awful. And the idea of ever getting an OES again was shattered for both of us.

But I knew some good people in the OES world. Betsey, the woman I got Dave from who was not doing rescue anymore (which is why I got a dog from NC) was so upset for us. She and two other wonderful women who run rescues in New England and North Carolina (a different rescue than the one we got the biter dog from) encouraged us to take time to heal from this and regroup.

sZZscUi3SU+qzeyRIITnyg

I loved this and had to take a photo

In my heart I knew I wanted an OES-but I was scared too. They can bite- because they are stubborn – but I knew from having Dave who was a hard head that biting isn’t first on their agenda. I knew the attack I saw on my husband was not a breed thing it was because the dog wasn’t right in the head. So getting another one was an idea that I tabled for a while – I could not quite nix the idea entirely. So I kept in touch with my OES rescue friends.

Belinda Lamm of TOESR (Tarheels Old English Sheepdog Rescue) kept checking in on us. She was so upset by what happened and knew how awful the situation had been for us – the rescue where the biter dog came from was awful to us- and she did not want us to be disillusioned because of that experience.

One day she told me about a senior dog name Ridley that had been in the owners backyard and uncared for and someone had called animal control. The owner willfully gave up Ridley who by then was a matted mess – he couldn’t move his head.  Belinda’s group went and got him and put him in a foster home – once they had him cleaned up and vetted she wrote and asked if we might like to adopt him. I was skeptical – as you can imagine- and I asked a ton of questions. But in the end I trusted her – and Kevin trusted me. So we said yes we would take him.

JFtOA+EATaW45YnKUgPaPg

Car Ride!

Ridley restored our love of the breed. He is annoying and funny and so many things. He has no boundaries and likes to lick your hair if you bend down or sit on the floor. If you don’t close the door to the potty you will have a visitor. He nags and nags you for a bite when you eat, he drools puddles of slime, he thinks he is the leader of the pack and it has gotten him bitten a couple times too. He loves to ride in the car – he will just lay in zen mode anytime he is in the car- he is the perfect rider. He is not bright but he knows how to love. I think at some point Ridley had lived inside his home and he was cared for as his demeanor says “I like people- they are my friends”.

I will always be grateful to Ridley for reminding me not to judge a whole community just because of one bad apple.

I will miss this guy. I don’t when goodbye will be – but it will be sooner than later.  I try to enjoy the time. Having to care for a dog in their declining days builds a tight bond. I try not to sit and cry as I wait for the day to come. I would be wasting precious time with him – but I cry a little sometimes.  For now, we just love and care for him the best we can – we have frustrating moments for sure he is a lot of work now- but we love him- and we want to enjoy these last borrowed days.

n1cByOWfSKaQkYyJr%IW%w

Car Ride

The day will come soon where Ridley will be laying in the van – going for a ride to get a special treat. Maybe a McDs burger or some other greasy human feast. In that food there will be a bit of tranquilizer, and after his meal we will drive around the country side chatting with him until he falls asleep. Then we will go to the vets and open the side door of the van where the vet will meet us. In that van – that is a calm place for him- is where we will say our goodbyes as the vet helps him to slip away.  Kevin and I will be holding him and loving him as his spirit takes flight to it’s next job.

Ok now I am crying. It gets too real sometimes.

Anyway – thanks for letting me tell you a bit about Ridley.  He is a good guy- and a good friend. There will be a big gap in our lives when he is gone.

Ok I think I am going to grab him a treat because he’s a good boy….

Hover over photos to see who is who!

Hair eating!

On the ground with Ridley!

Missing me? I hope not.

Rudy knew we were leaving. He always knows when we are going to be going in the car. He can tell. The suitcase comes out and I grab my pillow and a blanket I always travel with.

Even Ridley my Old English Sheepdog gets excited. He knows too. And he and Rudy usually get to go along – but not on this particular trip. This time they didn’t hear me utter “bye bye to beach house”. But still there was an expectation. An anticipation. The waiting for the leash. The sad look from Rudy ( or was that my projection ?) when he realized I was going and he wasn’t.

I know not to make a big deal about coming and goings with my dogs. But they know the packing and the taking things to the car. I did give them a pat and a treat when I left. I may have said “I’ll be back in five minutes.” I say that often if I run to the barn or mailbox or store. It’s said with no inflection. No sadness. I just say it as if Rudy or Ridley or any of the other dogs would understand. So The other day I may have said that and then I left. But Rudy was confused. He had anticipated wrong. He thought I was supposed to be getting him loaded in the car.

It’s amazing at what dogs pick up on. They know by your movements where you intend to walk. Well at least Rudy does. My sheepdog who isn’t very smart or maybe he’s just so stubborn it resembles dumb – even he sees cues and knows things sometimes before I know them.

Dogs are so in tune with their humans. We think they can tell time sometimes right? My dogs knew when my kids bus was coming. Not because it was 2:34. But because they likely heard the squeak of the brakes or the door opening at a stop down the road. I couldn’t hear it but they knew. Or maybe it was the light or maybe some cue I gave them through my feelings. Dogs are not humans they have senses we don’t. They are more of this world then we will ever be. We live in houses and so do they but they are so much more part of the real world – is nature. They aren’t distracted by all the things we think are important. To dogs the humans are important to them bc we help them survive. So they have to be in tune to us.

So in this situation of me leaving -the packing is the most telling to them. It seems obvious. They relate those actions to them going somewhere. If I grab my purse Rudy knows I’m going out. Ridley who acts deaf half the time can tell the difference between plates rattling in the sink and the opening of the treat jar in the kitchen. It’s certainly amazing. But I think it’s their instinct to be so in tune.

And for Rudy I’m his job. He rarely plays with our other dogs. He most always chooses to be with me – with the exception of the chance to scam some food off someone in the kitchen. Sometimes he bags me for that. But soon enough he comes to find me again. If a door separates us he lays by it and whines.

I didn’t leave feeling badly about him. I knew he would be ok with my sons and my mom who sneaks the dogs treats often. I left missing him though. We are together a lot but this trip – to Cleveland to see my daughter – wasn’t going to be good for a dog to attend.

Funny enough the drive was nice because we didn’t have any dogs to walk at the rest stop. But I will say I missed him when I was laying in bed. He’s always around and a few times I woke up looking for him quickly remembering he was at home.

Just before bed I had texted one of my sons at home and he called me – no FaceTimed- (I’ll never get used to it.) And he showed me Rudy and Ridley laying by the front door. He said they had been like that since I left. ( ok they did leave that post in order to eat so they aren’t that sad.) They weren’t suffering. They were eating.

I know sometimes when routines change dogs won’t eat -I have a couple dogs like that who occasionally get too stressed to eat when we are gone. Mostly it happens if we have a new caretaker. But after a couple days they are usually eating again.

Dogs don’t have a concept of time like we do so that always makes me feel better knowing they don’t see the passing of time the same as we do. So I knew he wasn’t pining. Just waiting.

I had a little fun the other night and tried to call him to me on FaceTime and he came to the phone. But was totally confused. He heard my voice and maybe saw something in that phone but i am not sure he saw me. I took a couple photos. He’s certainly sweet.

Anyway when I checked with my son the next morning he said Rudy did lay back by the door after our call but then came to bed with him – he slept in our bedroom. The rest of the pack was in there too so he was going in.

I suspect in another day or even less he may have stopped laying by the door. He would move on to whoever was there. He would be ok.

When I got home we had some excitement from all the dogs so Rudy was lost in that fray. I gave him a pet quickly and then I think he was sent outside with the pack. So I began to get settled -I had been home maybe five minutes and back in came Rudy. He doesn’t jump all over me – though he would do that to a stranger. (Pet peeve of mine that we work on and on). He just stood in the room and I told him to come up on the bed for a hug. And it was then he began whining and rubbing his head into my chest. Then Kevin came in and he gave him his excited growl – a thing he does when he’s happy. He makes this growling noise but it’s not menacing it is like he is talking. It’s funny! He also murr’s a lot. It’s dog purring. Maybe some dog owners out there know what I’m describing. He has different inflections of this noise based on what he wants. Like me to share my food. It is an intake or exhale of air with like three pauses. Our lab Lemon does that too. It’s communication and I thinks it’s cool.

I think Rudy was whining because he was glad I was home. I’m a pack member and I was gone. I am also his person and I was back. Did he miss me? Maybe? I want to think he was ok though. But just happy to see me return back to the den.

I did miss a dog being around they are a comfort to me as I have anxiety and I find a dog helps me feel less anxious but I did well aside from some pain from the long drive but it didn’t last long so that was great and I had a nice time seeing my daughter and doing stuff.

But I still wonder what he thinks – what his perceptions are. But I’m glad he is back doing his job. He’s here right now in my office as I write this. He’s laying by the door – and as soon as I move a certain way he will jump up trying to anticipate my next move. “Is she leaving the office? Ok – Just tidying up. Oh then I can rest my head down again. Or maybe there is some paper I can eat. ”

I like to think they aren’t as complex as we try to make them. I like it that way. We must seem very complex to them. Or perhaps they read past all out flawed humanness and see our souls.

I will never really know what Rudy feels but I don’t think my being gone is horribly distressing -maybe confusing because he was anticipating he was going. But he ate and drank and was fine. And I’m glad. I know Rudy and I have some kind of special connection -and however that is manifested i am very lucky to have him.

Ahh – he just came over for some pets. I think I’ll go now and oblige him. All is as it should be in his world. His person is here.

Surrounded by Dogs


It’s not often that I don’t have a dog or two -or 5- near me. One could say they must follow me because I have food -and I sometimes do but I often don’t and I don’t share all the time. I also am not the person who feeds them most of the time.  My husband and my kids do that job. But our dogs (my dogs) are my comrades. Lemon our yellow Lab prefers the company of my son -Luke- and I am her second choice when he’s not home -I love their love for eachother.  The other pups -my boys-are my shadows much of the time. One might move to a cooler place on the floor in the hallway outside my office or bedroom- but they are always near me. Is it because I’m their leader? Am I their leader? I don’t know what they think. I’ve always had a comfort being around animals especially dogs.  But my husband always is amazed that they follow me around like the I am the Pied Piper. 

It’s something that I don’t take for granted -this affection – but it is something that I’ve come to be used to in my daily life that I don’t always notice it. They are just there. And I need them to be there.  Dogs have been a calming force much of my life. When I felt alone or scared at times in my life there was a dog there to comfort me. They were my PTSD dogs long before there were such a thing. 

We usually are all quiet as we sit in our spaces either in my office or in my bedroom –  Unless the UPS man comes. Then it gets a little wild. 

In the last couple of months I’ve been out of sorts. My spirit is down and my physical body is in pain. I’ve waxed cranky and sad and sometimes downright angry. There have been days where I felt like there was just too much dog near me. I felt crowded impatient and claustrophobic. I’d shoo them out of my space.  It really wasn’t them at all – but yet in my angst I’d push them away.  

 I’d shoo them away -but they never went very far from me. They might lay in the hall or go sit by my husband or ask to be let out. 

 My old English sheepy -Ridley just doesn’t understand cranky or mad. Or the word shoo or off. He doesn’t leave when asked and in fact comes closer to offer his head for pats. Rudy is like glue to me. He doesn’t shoo he just curls himself a little further away to give me space. 


When I’d get back to my work or stop wallowing in my crankiness I’d notice later the dogs had moved back in closer. And I realized that I didn’t feel claustrophobic any longer. I’d feel a sense of calmness and I felt cared for.  Loved. 

This pattern has continued and as I looked around me today I realized that they may know what I need better than I do myself sometimes. 

It’s what comrades do for eachother…..

UPS?

Adventures of a little dog….

My mom’s dog ,Suki, was pretty confused that first night after I left my mom in the hospital after her back surgery.  Kevin and I walked into the door of my mother’s house and went to get Suki from my moms bedroom and she looked past me and Kevin in what I think was a search for her mom.  My mom and Suki hadn’t been apart much in the four years that my mom had her. They were a set. So it didnt surprise me that Suki would spend much of that first evening in my moms home popping her head up at every small sound in hopes that maybe my mom would walk in the door.


But it made me a little sad for her.

I had no way of telling Suki her mom was ok and they would be together again soon. Well- in a few weeks after my mom got through recovering in a Rehab Hospital. I kept trying to sit quietly with Suki while sending her pictures in my head of what my mom was doing. I tried to settle her with my words of assurance but she didnt understand.

Suki was a rescue dog. My mom and step dad (who recently passed) fell in love with her on Petfinder. They had been looking for a corgi mix. It had be a few years since their chow corgi etc mix had passed and I knew my mom was missing having a dog.  The time had to be right as both had health issues and the size of the dog needed to be manageable.

My mother ever the Anglophile had a soft spot for corgis ever since she saw the royals of England kept them as their breed of choice. So when they saw Suki (aka Foxy) online it was love at first site. She was the perfect size -about 15 lbs- and a good age -4- not too young not to old. So after a call to the rescue Foxy began her life as Suki -which means beloved in Japanese – with my mom and stepfather.

She looked part Corgi and we still wonder what else is in her though i am convinced there is terrier in her. She has an affinity for sticking her nose in small spaces and chasing my chickens and ducks. There may even be some chihuahua in there. We have talked about getting her DNA done. Maybe we will.

Suki came from another family where the owner got sick and couldn’t care for her anymore.So I  wondered if the  absence of my mom would be more upsetting for her because she had the loss of an owner in the past.  I know I was putting my human feeling on her but that first night I know she was confused and distressed.

I am thankful that she knew Kevin and me because I think that may have helped her some during her time of distress. She finally settled down late in the night. In the morning she ran back to my moms room and jumped on the bed and looked at me. I decided to feed her in there but she didn’t eat much. I knew it would take some time for her to adjust to this new situation.

After breakfast we took off early to get back to the Maryland to get home before the blizzard that was on its way to dump a ton of snow on our farm. We  put Suki in her crate in the back of SUV and off we went.  Rudy my Golden Retriever -had also accompanied us to PA so he was some company for Suki when we were at the hospital and in the SUV driving back to Maryland.

Suki did well on the trip. She didn’t whine or pant. She seemed to take the ride as an adventure.  Suki seemed to settle in quickly. She let my other dogs -all much bigger than she-know who was boss. She has this major growl – it sounds more lioness than tiny dog but it gets the point across very well.


The one thing I admire about dogs is their adaptability.  They have such a way of dealing with change. Suki claimed our bed that first night as a safe spot and she curled up a began to snore -and she does snore.  She got up in the morning to a giant blizzard but still managed to figure out a good spot to do her business. She didn’t cry or act upset that my mom wasn’t around. I was glad. It’s a thing dogs do for survival. I wish I was an ounce as adaptable.


She would sometimes stare wistfully out the window of my office. I suspect she was staring at all the birds because my feeders are just outside that window but I did wonder sometimes if she was thinking of my mom. She would perk up when a car came but that’s just dog curiosity -I think -but she was certainly cute staring out that window.


When I told my mom about how well Suki was settling in she was worried Suki might forget her. I assured her it would take more than a few weeks for her pup to forget her. But she still worried. They hadn’t been apart ever for this long. I told my mom this is Sukis big adventure.

Suki could easily be a farm dog except she may want to eat my chickens and ducks. She likes to chase them that’s for sure. The birds soon realized that the little fierce thing that was chasing them was on the other side of the fence so they have begun to become somewhat immune to her sudden moves.


Weve weathered a blizzard  and we have had nice  walks up the lane to meet the neighbors horses. There was a lot of growling by her at first glance at the horses.  She was just feeling her shortness I think. We walked in the fields. She has gone to Tractor Supply where she was well received. Of course that’s Rudy’s favorite place and he knows if he sits nicely or puts his feet on the counter he’ll get a treat. Suki was a bit surprised that she would get a treat  just for standing in line. She left with a new harness and some yummy canned food.


I have never had a small dog. I have had many dogs over the years and they have always weighed well over forty pounds. So having a little girl like Suki is new and it’s pretty cool. She does manage to take up more space in the bed between Kevin and I every night and sometimes I wake up and see her laying up next to Rudy at the foot of the bed. Sometimes I would wake squished and hanging half off the bed with Suki pushing at my back and Rudy laying in the path where my legs  needed to be.  I have no idea how I ever sleep at all. No wonder I’m so tired!


But small dogs are pretty cool. I have not gotten used to her in the fray with my other dogs though if they step wrong she tells them off. I know little dogs hang with the big guys all the time. It’s amazing that this 17 pound ball of fluff could be boss over the five big dogs but she has set her intentions.

One thing about little dogs is their portability. It’s been easy for me to take her places. She fits in any car even if  it’s stuffed with junk. She would prefer to ride in my lap even if I’m driving so the passenger has to hold her or we put her in her crate for the ride.

We took Suki to visit my mother in law. Suki took to her right away and part of me thought how great she could be as a therapy dog. She’s the perfect size and perfect temperament. Well she can be a little tiny bit  leery of men at first but that only lasts a minute then she is right up next to them asking for pets.

Suki and my mother-in-law



My mother in law said ” Tell your mom I really like her dog”. I think so – since no dog would ever be allowed to jump up on the couch mom Sweeney’s home and Suki took the liberty without any human correcting her.  Suki decided my mother in law would be her friend. She just seems to have that ability to engage a person without being nudgie ( a thing i work on with Rudy all the time)It is amazing how dogs can brighten a persons day. It certainly seemed a good thing for my mother in law.

Years ago I did therapy dog work with my greyhound Jay jay Star – she was a natural- she was calm and her breed drew attention wherever we went so making our rounds in a nearby nursing home was an easy choice. She became quite popular with many of the residents. Of all the things I have ever done therapy dog visits were one of the most gratifying and heartbreaking all at the same time. I loved making people smile but I often got into the car and cried – nursing homes aren’t always the easiest places to visit. But for some reason I think I would like to  do this work again someday. Being with Suki made me think about it a bit more.

Last week when we went to see my mom in the rehab hospital we were able to have my mom wheeled into the vestibule of the building to have a visit with Suki. It was a big moment because my mom was so fearful Suki would not remember her. I was pretty certain that she would remember and she didn’t disappoint.

Is that you up there , mom?

She jumped up on my moms lap and it was clear she knew who she was. I think Suki was confused as to why my mom was at this place and not at her home and when we had to take my mom back into the building Suki was not happy. Kevin had to pick her up and put her back into the crate in our SUV because she kept trying to pull him back into the building. I felt badly about confusing her but I think the visit was good for my mom. She had been visited regularly by a few different therapy dogs while she was in rehab and by the way she spoke about the visits I know it was a highlight of her day – but not the same as having her own beloved dog next to her.

My Mom and Suki

Suki’s visit with us is coming to an end this week. My mom has a discharge date from the rehab hospital. It will be time for both of them to get on with life together. I will miss her. She was an easy charge.  She has been comforting in her littleness. But having six dogs here made me feel a bit outnumbered so it will be nice getting back to a more mangeable(?) five.

The last few weeks have been tough for my mom and it was often hard for me too as I couldn’t do anything to fix my mother in her discomfort. She had to get stronger and more mobile on her own with the help of her therapists.  I am a fixer – a planner- I don’t like it when I can’t make things better. And as I learned – sometimes you have to stand back and let life happen and help where you can. In my case taking care of my moms dogs was a way I could help and Suki helped me feel less helpless in a difficult time–didn’t I tell you she would make a good therapy dog?

Don’t Forget Fido!

 

If you read my blog you know I am a crazy animal lover. I am especially partial or partially nuts about dogs. Dogs have been an important part of my existence ever since my childhood– they loved me unconditionally when I needed it. Dogs were and still are my solace.

I had a friend that I once used as a rescue referral that told the rescue “ If I was a dog, I would want to be a dog who lived with the Sweeney’s”. I considered that a compliment. When you are a dog at my house you are part of the family.

My pets are spoiled- pets in America today have it good. I know from the ads on TV that the pet supply industry is big business. Americans spent $56 billion on their pets last year (info on that here) and I helped build that number. I should be proud! Does everyone get gifts for their pets? Probably not, but I know many who do. I have my limits on my spoiling but I am definitely among those that love to indulge their pets from time to time with toys and other sundries.

When it came to holidays and pets I haven’t always bought them gifts for Christmas. I figured they got special treats and gifts all year long and, really, they have no idea it’s Christmas anyway. They just act excited on that day because they pick up the kid’s vibes- and mine -but it is so cute!

I know they don’t need these things. I just like to think they need these things but that’s my own issue – but I say -who cares! – they seem to like getting gifts and it makes me happy to give them stuff.

For the last two years we began to do Secret Santa for the humans in our home. I am not sure who it was (probably me) that decided it might be nice to add the dogs to the Secret Santa game. We each pick a pet name – we keep it a secret- and go and shop for something for the dog and they get it on Christmas day – they might even get a wrapped gift if their “Santa” wants to wrap it.

I can picture their faces when they get their gift. They may not know what Christmas is but they know a dog toy when they see one!

This year we almost didn’t do the Secret Santa thing for the dogs. I almost nixed it (I know – scrooge) because we each already picked a person in the family to buy a special gift for – with a $30 limit. I guess I didn’t want to stick anyone with having to buy another gift.

It turns out that my son, Luke, really wanted to do the Secret Santa – The Dog Version and he’s as cute as my dogs and has those eyes that melt my heart so we put the dog’s names in a bowl and picked the dogs names. We had quite a laugh that we were keeping this a secret from each other! Would we spill the beans to the dogs if we knew whom we each had?!

Ok so what was the limit going to be? I asked.

Luke said $30.

Really? $30 – per dog?

I felt that to be a bit excessive especially since I would essentially be the one buying the gift my son’s would be giving their dog. It’s easy to set a limit when you aren’t ponying up the cash!

The limit was set at $10.

I chose bandannas for my pick – Ridley – our newest dog. I have become big into dog embellishing. Not dressing up per se but I like a dog in a nice bandana or fun collar.

Ridley is one big giant fur ball(I just saw Star Wars and am thinking of renaming him Chewy) of an Old English Sheepdog and he is quite pleased wearing bandanas. The other dogs (excluding my perfect dog Rudy) think bandanas suck and they try to rip them off the dog wearing them. Rudy is also a bandana wearer and many of his have been found in the yard in shreds. Hate is ugly.

So I asked the humans in my family for purposes of this very important blog to tell me who they chose for their Secret Santa – The Dog Version – and what they got there dogs and why. I promised not to tell their chosen dog.

Luke had Lemon our witchy and super smart yellow lab – and he bought her that new yellow Frisbee. They are very close –those two—“she would have asked for that if she could speak” He said (I am so glad she can’t speak to be honest- she would not ever shut up). Lemon is quite the Frisbee dog. But she will eat the Frisbee if you leave her alone with it. I give it a week until its in shreds.

Kamilla chose Pierce our collie/shepherd mix. She got him treats because she thought, “he would enjoy them”. Yes you had him at T-R-E-A-T. He can spell. Those treats will be gone in 30 , 15, 10, 5 seconds.

Anyway – where was I? Suki – my mom’s Corgi mix. She is a little fiery spark plug and she already has a mountain -and I kid you not a mountain- of stuffed toys. When we visit my mom’s home there are always new stuffed animals – around but she has her favorites – her birthday cake, and her banana, and she has a kangaroo that has a baby in the mom’s pouch. I don’t understand that one at all – and I am wondering if my mom didn’t get that off of the Discovery Channel website and is trying to pass it off as a dog toy.

Suki isn’t a stuffy destroyer – which my dogs are – and my dog, Rudy, often goes with me to visit my mom and he has tried to de-stuff Suki’s stuffy’s many times but for such a small dog she packs a wicked snarl and Rudy has only managed to steal and gut one toy from her.

Kevin drew Suki’s name. I asked him today what he chose and why. He chose…a stuffy(another one?)… it’s an elephant. So why did Kevin choose the elephant I asked…”It was cheap- it was in the $3.99 bin” he said. Well I burst out laughing at that one. I don’t know why I was expecting a much deeper answer. It’s a dog toy- he wasn’t going to put much thought into it.

My son has Rudy our Golden and he bought Rudy a Bandana. Why I asked- “because you told me to get him that.” Well he is right I did give him that gift idea. I am excited to see what he chose for him. Rudy looks so good in bandanas!

Have I gone through all six dogs yet? Nope — I missed Reese our pit mix. Well he’s one lucky guy because my mom chose him, and Kevin also bought him a new Washington Redskins collar yesterday. Hey we are contenders this year- in a terrible division but we are in the mix so a new collar showing our support was perfect. And Reese just likes anything – well except for getting his nails clipped.

My mom- who officially chose Reese – had already gotten all the dogs gifts well before we picked names and I forgot to ask her what she got them. It didn’t occur to me until now that the gifts she bought for them would have been enough and we could have saved the money and not bought them anything else- but what fun would that be? Zero fun. I vote for fun.

Yesterday, I went out shopping for some last minute human gifts but don’t you know when I was in Home Goods. They have grown a once very small pet section into a small pet store inside their store. Wouldn’t you know that I found a huge deal on a huge orthopedic pet bed. It was way over the $10 budget we set but I had to get it for Ridley who is old and would appreciate (at least I thought he should appreciate) such a bed and maybe he wouldn’t need to sleep on the couch all the time. If it doesn’t work out for him – and it might not because he really loves couches – I think it could be a decent guest bed.

I got caught up in the fun of it and my pets deserve it because they make me happy. Giving to them makes me happy. I like happy. Lately I have needed some extra happy. They don’t have be able to pick a name to give a human a gift -they give their gift of love everyday. Well the dogs do – and the cats do sometimes when they feel like it – and my horses give some love on Mondays and Fridays only because horses are like that -and the Chickens and ducks never give us love but they give us eggs so all in all it is win/win with our little group of critters here in our farm.

PostScript: Ridley got his new bed. He looked at it, stood on it, circled around on it, sat on it, got up and went over to the couch got on it and went to sleep. I had a good giggle over that. I laughed harder when Pierce ate all his treats in a nano-second and Rudy attempted to eat the package the treats came in. Every single dollar spent was worth it- these guys make me smile everyday!

Merry Christmas to you and yours….

 

  

    
    
  

Dogs and Me-thoughts on my love (and need) of dogs. 

Last week our PitBull mix Reese got into a fight with my Old English Sheepdog Ridley – our newest edition to our home. The dogs had come in from outside where I had just watched them playing. The dogs seemed pretty rambunctious and I don’t like that in the house so I was going to put them back out but decided to give them some leftover apple first. I stood up with a plate in my hand and the dogs ran over and never quite got settled (they need to sit to get any treat). In a split second 2 year old Reese was going at Ridley who was doing his best to protect himself. Reese who is smaller but much stronger than 11 year old Ridley pushed him to the ground and had a hold of his next above the ear and he wouldn’t let go. Ridley stopped fighting and was whining. It was very scary.

I was able to get Reese to release his hold – my son had the mind to grab the water spray bottle we keep handy – he sprayed and I tugged at Reese. He let go and I threw him outside. I went out and yelled at him and chased him with the spray bottle more bc I was so mad than it being any important correction. But I think I made my point – but it was very upsetting to me. Thankfully Ridley had only a minor cut behind his left ear.

Ever since the altercation over a week ago -things have been quiet between these two. A couple days after that event Rudy took his turn getting after Ridley too. No damage was done to either dog and I did correct Rudy and gave him time in solitary – away from the pack. They all seem to have moved on.

Since the first event, I have been quite off kilter and not as relaxed when my dogs are all hanging together as I usually am. I feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. This is not really like me. These altercations were clearly tiffs and the dogs have seemed to move past them. Why can’t I?

I realize it is my issue not the dogs. I have been doing a lot of thinking about it.

I have mentioned before that some of my reaction is likely comes from some Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. PTSD from my own life which probably is what drives me to want and need dogs in my life, and then the post traumatic stress that has caused such a strong reaction to the fight which derives from the time last year when my husband, Kevin, was bitten by another sheepdog we had adopted. We had him 4 days and the dog attacked my husband without warning – severely biting him multiple times. This landed my husband at the urgent care (in hindsight we should have gone to the ER) and he became very ill due to the infection he ended up with from the bites.

It was a scary event and one that could have been avoided had I never agreed to take that dog in the first place. I knew he had bitten the foster person. Though it was downplayed I should have had a much bigger red flag on that bit of information. I ignored it bc the desire to get another sheepdog into this house was greater than my red flag meter.

I think I was very affected by the attack on Kevin and I wasn’t sure I would ever adopt a dog again. Though this is what we do so I could only stay away from getting another dog for so long. I have carried a lot of guilt and fear away from that incident, which I am sure, played a part in my reaction to the fights between my current dogs.

Kevin reminded me the other day that when we chose to add another dog to our pack we stir up the dynamic for a time. He is right. I need to remember that dogs have their own hierarchy and though over three weeks had gone by since Ridley joined the family, things are still getting established in their dog world.

We can’t ignore the fact that Pit Bulls have been bred for fighting and their reactivity to challenge is well known. They can be fierce and scary when they decide to fight. Deciding to have a dog with Pit Bull in them is not for everyone. When we decided on getting Reese we felt confident that we could handle anything that came up. Had we met Reese after the dog-biting incident I can’t say for sure if we would have adopted him. I may have been too nervous. But maybe that would be the fear talking and I don’t like to bend to fear.

Dogs have been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. But recently, I have been thinking more about this and have realized that in my childhood dogs represented calm for me. Psychiatrists have said that dogs are very important to children who are leading complex and difficult lives. I realize now why I was so drawn to them from such a young age. To this day I have a dog near most of the time. I have a dog curled at my feet as I write this piece.

I grew up in a chaotic household. Not normal chaos – the dysfunctional kind. There was yelling and fighting. Our family dog, a black and white cocker spaniel mix named Inkspot-became my friend and she calmed me. If things got too loud in my home I would hide in the closet and Inky would sit with me until it felt ok to come out.

I am realizing now that so much of my life even in adulthood has been about chaos or post-traumatic stress and dogs were the medicine to comfort me.

My need to have multiple dogs in my life has been to fill something that I didn’t get in my childhood. A sense of stability and of calm and order – a need to give to living things what I did not have. We get dogs for all kinds of reasons but rarely think about them. Thanks to Reese, I am thinking about them.

I have always been drawn to saving things. This primal need must come from my childhood. The trainers know it is rarely about the dogs, it is always about the people. I felt unsafe for much of my life. When you feel you have saved something you feel like are saved as well. It is healing. The more I do it, the more I heal. In a way I know this is selfish, but it is good and feels good to me and good for me. And the dogs benefit too. So it’s a win/win.

I got into rescuing dogs by accident. I hadn’t considered rescue back in 1992 but I just happened to hear about Greyhound rescue. I felt this instant need to help. Probably my first jump into rescuing a dog was not well thought out. I got into it on a whim and thankfully that breed worked out.

I have had dogs in my adult life for 25 years. I have had at least two dogs for much of that time and I have up to six living with me. That’s not for everyone but it is something that I feel is right for me. My husband shares this passion, and that is important. In a marriage, you can’t do this alone. In that time I have learned a lot. One thing I do know for sure is that you cannot ever think you know everything. Dogs are animals after all and they will act that way and sometimes it will take you by surprise.

I remember as a kid when our Lab Sam killed a squirrel in our backyard. My brother thought it was cool – I was sad for the squirrel and my mom was horrified. We don’t want to see the primal side of our animals. We try to teach them to live with us in a civilized manner and for the most part they do this agreeably and I am sure the fact we provide them food and shelter is a good motivation.

The best thing we can do for ourselves is when getting a dog rescue or from a good breeder is to look at the type of dog you are considering and learn about the temperament.

In our case with Reese we really liked him. He was just about 4 months old and pretty darn cute and we had some connection to him. We didn’t really chat about the fact he was part Pit Bull until after we put an application in on him. We knew the good sides and the bad and we knew the risks and we opted to go ahead and adopt him.

When we get a dog we also think about whether the dog will fit in with our other dogs and we have to also consider the kids. If a dog is aggressive to my kids or to us they have to go -as did the dog that attacked my husband. It would have been irresponsible for me to keep a dog that was aggressive.

I also had to re-home a dog once because my other dogs were attacking him. It was heartbreaking but sometimes dogs just cannot get along and to keep the dogs safe sometimes you have to rehome one. The dog that we rehomed ended up in a great home for him and lived out his life in peace and safety. It hurt me to give him up but this wasn’t about me it was about the dog.

When getting a dog we also should consider where they will live

A giant dog that needs room to roam and run should not be kept in apartment. I had a greyhound in an apartment but they are couch potatoes – really they are. But to have our collie mix Pierce in an apartment would drive him mad and a potential owner mad. In our case now we have four acres and a big dog yard where they can run and run.

Reese has been an incredible dog – albeit full of energy- he has been the ambassador of our dogs welcoming guests human and canine alike into our home. Until the issue with Ridley he had never been aggressive at all. In fact, it was he and Rudy who lay with me after my cancer treatments bringing me so much comfort. This fight last week was the first and it shook me. Dogs are the calming forces in my life so when they act aggressively– it stuns me.

After a lot of pondering, I do feel that my reactions to Reese fighting with Ridley were valid – but I also think they shook me more because of the biting incident with Kevin. I lost some of my confidence when that happened. I hadn’t realized it that until I really thought about it. I can get past this though. It is like falling off a horse. It is imperative you get back on and ride through the fear and doubt.

Rescuing dogs is what I do and I have experience at it. I realize that I can’t fix everything and we have our limits but we think Reese is a pretty good dog and we are willing to work with him on his issues if they arise.

I did learn to be more diligent with them when it comes to food. I am not sure the fight occurred because of food alone but something happened when they saw me with a plate. I also will be adamant that they stay calmer in the house. They seem to play well outside. Inside a dog can get bumped when they are jumping about and that can sometimes result in misunderstanding that can lead to a fight.

I have learned that I love the Pit Bulls and the Pit mixes but they come with some risks. The very cute and sweet dog can be a mean creature. But in general he is a very nice dog. I am more aware now of what he is capable of and I won’t take the for granted.

I am dedicated to Reese. I can’t let a dog go easily. I don’t give up on things that quickly. I spent much of my life trying find love and acceptance. I have that now with wonderful people in my life that have lifted me up and have never given up on me. I am not ready to give up on him.

I am lucky; I found the acceptance and love in my life that I had been craving as a child. It took a while to find and it took a while for me to feel worthy of it. My love and need for dogs has never wavered and my dedication to helping them is still as strong as ever. The little girl inside me will never forget the little black and white cocker spaniel mix that sat with her when she scared and sad and licked her tears away.

Thanks for reading…

 

 

Reese -age 2 – the Pit Bull mix that is the inspiration of this post.

My heartdog Rudy -age 3

Newcomer- 11 yr old Ridley

Lemon – age 6

The crew. Lemon in back . L to R – Rudy, Pierce-age 2, Ridley, and Reese

 

It’s what we do. 

 This is Ridley. I have hesitated to write about him. Partly because I tried to be in denial that we were actually getting a 5th dog – yet again- after I said no more dogs! The other part is because this is an Old English Sheepdog and if you might recall we tried to rescue another OES about 1.5 years ago and that turned into a disaster. That dog bit me on the second day we had him and after I decided to let that go as a stress thing- two days later he attacked my husband. He suffered severe bite wounds- and despite being seen at urgent care he became very ill with an infection from the bites. He nearly lost a part of his finger and to this day he has stiffness and bad scarring on his hand. I suppose he fared ok seeing as how the bites were all over his hands and legs. He was lucky.

The hardest part of that experience aside from seeing your husband crouched in the bathtub allowing the blood to go down the drain as he tried to rinse off the wounds and not pass out was how the rescue group treated us. They never asked how my husband was doing and acted like the dog was the victim – and they implied we must have done something to make the dog attack my husband. This really was upsetting on so many levels. They did take the dog back and as far as i know he is living in a separate building on a fosters land. But blaming us ignored a dog with a serious problem. I was contacted by a number of rescues groups after I wrote about the incident that the dog should be euthanized. Maybe we should have done that – in hindsight I cannot say I wish we had – bc the entire event it hurts my heart still – but if one looks at it logically that dog should probably have been put down. I have prayed that he never ever bites anyone again- especially a child. I can say that in hindsight I wish we had never dealt with that rescue and for a while I wasn’t sure I would ever rescue again – especially an OES.

Since 1993 there has been 12 dogs that have been part of our lives. Ten of those were rescues the other 2 pups we bought from breeders. I am no dog trainer but I know dogs. I think after the experience with the sheepdog and the reaction of the rescue I was hurt and discouraged.  I wasnt sure I could handle going through that again. I thought puppies would be the only way I would go if I brought another dog here again. All of our dogs now are young. Ages 6 and under. We did not need a puppy.

And we didnt need 5 dogs again. We don’t. For a while finances precluded us from adding to the group but that has been lifted as my husband has gotten a new job that will allow us to loosen our belts some. We still don’t need 5 dogs. We don’t. I kept telling myself we needed to downsize the number of dogs we have because we want to move to the beach in a few to sometime years (we have no idea is what I am trying to say) and I couldn’t figure out how many dogs would fit on any of those little lots at the beach. So I thought after each precious dog in our lives left us we would not get another one. Two would be the optimum amount for us I thought -and for many two  is too many—for me two dogs just seems like an empty nest! But I had to be practical and financially careful. But that stress has been lifted so maybe there is room for more.  But we don’t need five dogs- we don’t…

But I miss having an OES and I miss having a senior dog.

And with the passing of time I realize that I am less effected by the last fiasco with the biting dog and the nasty rescue. I also realized that I am not a practical person. I have never been one. I have no idea if we will move in a few to sometime years…and I cant start living like that now. The more I thought about leaving my farm the more I didn’t want to leave it. The more I looked at my hens – whose numbers were dwindling after the loss of a number of my old girls over the summer and fall- and realizing I said I will not raise anymore chicks or ducks bc we are going to downsize in a few to sometime years- I realized this was living for the future and I wasn’t living in the now. That made me sad…because after having dealt with cancer I try to embrace the now more than ever.

So I began to make contact with some OES rescues that I know- I had been too impatient before and used a rescue I had not heard of and as it turns out had a bad reputation among other OES rescues country-wide. So this time I knew who to contact and we began a dialogue. But the dialogue also had to happen with my husband- Kevin. After all it was he who suffered the most the last time I tried to get an OES. But hes an amazing guy and he doesn’t harbor resentment and he has moved on. He knows how much I miss my OES Dave and how I fell for the breed and he knows how much I miss having one- so he is on board and not reluctantly…he looks forward to a new friend. If he lived alone he definitely would not have 5 dogs-  that’s all on me. But I think Kevin – who grew up with no animals- loves the life we have created and is up for adventure. We are in this thing called life together and for that I am blessed.

My wants for dog number 5 were pretty simple…I wanted an older dog 7 yrs plus and I wanted an OES and a male- and I didn’t want a biter. I love old dogs and we have rescued a number of them. They often get euthanized if they are put into a shelter bc they aren’t the first in line for adoption. So sometimes it isn’t as easy as it sounds to get an old guy. But once I put the feelers out I got a line on Mr Ridley in the picture above. Ridley met my criteria…he is a male and OES and hes old between 8-10. He is said to have a wonderful temperament – no known biting and has done very well in his foster home that he shares with other dogs.Tarheels OES Rescue in NC was pulling him from a shelter in WV. The owners could not keep him anymore bc they had young kids and no time for him. I think he was loved enough at some point but the kids became a priority and Ridley was relinquished to the backyard (he was quite matted and flea bitten) and then they took him to the shelter. From all I hear he is a happy guy.

I have known about this impending addition for weeks now. I think I was afraid to post bc then it would seem too real.. I am still nervous about all of it—my PTSD from before. Is writing about it making my life to much of an open book? Will people flame me if it doesn’t work out for some reason? But I can’t let fear deter me. I have a lot of support with this one. Belinda- the rescue director- has my back. She has been very careful to get me a dog that had an incredible temperament. I have my friend Betsey who did OES rescue for years and gave me my first beloved OES Dave years ago. At first Betsey wasn’t going to give him to us bc we had young kids- but she liked that we were at home most days and Dave needed that for health reasons. I am so glad she took a chance on us – I fell in love with Dave and the OES breed. There will never be another Dave but I do look forward to having an OES in the house. I am nervous and hoping this placement is a good fit. I am sure I will be reporting about this journey.

So tomorrow at 3pm we will meet Mr Ridley and bring him home. We were able to get a transport all the way to Hagerstown, MD 50 minutes away from us. Everything is falling into place. We have his food and his bed. Tomorrow we will have 5 dogs. We don’t need five dogs….but I am not living in the future – I want to live in the now. And giving a home to an old dog who lost his first home- to give him a second chance- is part of who I am (and now who Kevin is). This is the life we chose to live. It’s what we do.

Thanks for reading…..