Early Morning Open Thread: A Life in Dogs

From commentor Stuckinred:

My wife and I started dating in the mid 90s and in 1996 she went to her home in Virginia to see about getting one of the cocker spaniels from the line her family had bred for many years. She came back with this funny looking little black fur-ball and I thought, “What in the hell is this, some kind of little frou-frou poodle”? She named him Raven and it didn’t take long for the scamp to win me over. He was the happiest, most playful little critter I had ever seen. Every dog I had up to then had been a ball or stick chaser and he was no exception. By the time I went up to “meet the family” he was a full blown retrieving maniac. My future mother-in-law, who had his litter-mate, Smokey, had never seen a cocker that would chase down a tennis ball thrown 50 yards and catch it on one hop! Raven was amazing and quickly became famous around town as I took him nearly everywhere I went. He loved people, kids, and most other dogs. It was interesting to learn what bad reputation cockers had as biters. Many people would ask if it was safe for them or their kids to pet him as he wiggled away. There isn’t time to capture the many great adventures we had with Raven. Eventually his name somehow morphed into Boo-Boo and one day a lady asked us his name. We answered, “well, his name is Raven, we call him Boo-Boo but he will answer to Stinky”! She replied, “My vet told me that if a dog had more than one name he was truly loved”. I couldn’t argue.
Life sped by and we often talked about getting Raven a pal to hang with. My job had me commuting an hour a day each way so we had a neighborhood kid come in and play with him after school. Suddenly my work situation changed and I began to work from home so we thought less of the need to get him a buddy. Then, seven years ago this week, on our daily walk to the bakery, we came out with our coffee and saw a tiny 5 lb ball of white fur sitting next to Raven outside the door. We looked all around and saw no evidence of where he had come from so I put him in my pocket and we took him home.
It took a few days to figure out a name for the new pup. Osa sounded good because he looked like a little bear but, somehow, it didn’t stick. Finally we hit on Bohdisattva, a fine name for a flash of white light like he was. We decided to crate train the Bohdi loosely following the “Monks of New Skete” regimen that included taking the little guy out every two hours to let him become accustomed to the crate as his home and going outside to take care of bidness. Most of the time Raven would just go out the doggie door so there was little occasion to observe him but that changed with the crate training. As I was taking them out I started to notice that Raven was struggling when he pooped… I took Raven in for an exam and the vet said, “I’m not sure how you picked this up but Raven has an anal carcinoma, you have caught it early and it is treatable”.
This led us into a world that you have to experience to really understand, no books can do it justice. My wife and I studied our options and, since we had jobs and no kids, decided to go for the whole ball of wax. That included a two month stay at Auburn’s Vet Med School for surgery, chemo and radiation. After the first two weeks we were allowed to pick him up on Friday afternoon and had to have him back on Sunday. During the week we would talk with a Vet student who was assigned to him on a daily basis for reports on his progress. We were pretty unprepared for the toll that the various procedures would have on him. He lost a great deal of weight and was so weak when we would get him that he was like a little rag doll.
I could go into great detail about the roller-coaster we rode with Raven’s fight but I think I’ll tell just one story. We learned quickly that there was a limit to the effectiveness of pain meds for dogs and we reached it quite quickly in his post-treatment stage. After hounding the vet for something to help him we finally found some tranquilizers that allowed him to get some rest. We had planned a weekend party and thought that the commotion would be too much for him so we gave him a pill and put him upstairs. Somehow someone went to up visit him and he ran down the stairs into the fray. He was so happy to see people and his little stub just wiggled and wiggled as he jumped from person to person to get some lovin! It was then that we realized part of what was brining him down was how bummed out and worried we were. He really turned the corner that day and his condition improved day-by-day. It’s common to talk about people and critters fighting the good fight and Raven fought one of the best. He survived for two and a half years after the treatment and, if we figure one dog year is seven people years, he was quite the success. We relied on our vet to advise us when it was time and, as it had to, the day came when we had to let him go. We sat on the floor with him and held him as he slipped and, while it still hurts today, we know that we did the second best thing we could do for a dog that day. I made a monument for him from a wheel barrow turned up with a little shelf in it and we lit a Mexican votive candle for him every day for a year. What a pup he was.
You often hear of dogs who lose a partner dog pining away in sadness but we never saw that in the Bohdi. He took his place as the only dog and seemed happy as a clam with the attention and the sole ownership of the ball. A couple of years after we lost Raven I somehow decided to call our vet to ask about reputable cocker breeders in the area. The response I got was “oh, would you come out and look at this little girl we have, someone dumped her in a box on our doorstep in the middle of the night and she needs a home. My wife and I talked it over and said, “we need to decide before we go anywhere near this what reason we might NOT take her”. The only thing we could come up with was if the Bohdi didn’t cotton to her so off we went. We arrived at our vet and, as luck would have it, they brought this beat up but beautiful little black cocker right out of the same door that Raven had come to us when we put him down. Seeing her literally took me to my knees, my wife put her hand on my shoulder and said “is it too soon”? It was not.
We now were the proud owner of Lil Bit, my first female and, as the vet later said “more than we had bargained for”. When we got her they had removed both her kidney stones and her tear ducts. This meant that she was in for a lifetime of cyclosporine drops in her eyes twice a day. About a month after we got her she woke us up screaming like she had been hit by a car. When we took her in they looked at the xrays they had done when they removed her kidney stones and thought there might be a bulging disc. This called for a month in the crate with limited movement. I went to the local habitat for humanity store and bought a baby stroller and modified it so I could push her on our two-mile morning walk. It was hilarious to watch people react when they looked in the stroller and saw this lopp-eared spaniel cruising along like she belonged there!
Lil Bit soon healed from that trauma and things went nicely for about six-months when I noticed one of her eyes was a bit cloudy. A visit to our local doggie opthamologist confirmed that she was developing a cataract and, being the easy mark that we are, we went ahead with the surgery. Did I mention that there was a small one developing in the other eye and that about a third of the cost of the procedure is in the anethstesia so it would have been cheaper to do them both at once? In the hope that the second one would not develop we followed the advice of the vet and did one. Everything went fine but on the four month checkup it was determined that the other one was advancing and another surgery was needed! Once again we went through all the complex recovery procedures but with a twist this time. Lil Bit’s blood tests revealed that she had autoimmune hemolytic anemia. This condition is very dangerous and very common in, you guessed it, American Cocker Spaniels! We have now been treating this disease for two years and are hopeful that she will continue to survive. The incredible thing about Lil Bit is that none of this stuff seems to bother her in the least. She is a happy, beautiful girl with long ears and wants nothing other than a cookie and to sit in your lap, no matter who you are.
So that’s a capsule, the cliff notes of my dog stories, They go back much further, to the mid 50s as a matter of fact. There was Ethalu the black lab, Ralph and Henry father and son shepherd collies and Mr Big the giant Marema mix that would have people standing in line just to ask about him. And finally there was my dad’s dog Molly. She died about a year before he did and, as we prepared to bury my dad’s ashes in the National Cemetery in Phoenix, my step mother hand me her urn and said “mix her ashes with his, it’s what he wanted”.

57 replies
  1. 1

    The black one looks like my Nate Dogg!

    Beautiful story.

  2. 2
    Ija says:

    The second picture is so cute. I wish I was a dog person. Or any pet person. Unfortunately, animals scare me a bit.

  3. 3
    Lysana says:

    Truly a wonderful group of stories. And such fortunate dogs and owners you all are.

  4. 4
    RosiesDad says:

    I love waking up in the morning to a reminder of why I’m grateful that I went back to school at age 28 with the goal of becoming a veterinarian. I’ve been in practice for 20 years now and there’s never a day that I’ve regretted the decision.

    Thanks for sharing a great tale.

  5. 5
    stuckinred says:

    @RosiesDad: And thank you, we have gotten to know out vets very well over the years and we are very thankful for them and all that care for critters. I also have to salute the people in animal rescue. I know that there is a great effort here to support Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue. If you have a lot of extra money looking for a place to there is also the Morris Animal Foundation.

  6. 6
    Donut says:

    After the last few days of teh Krazee being amped up so high and all the animosity flying around, it was nice to read about your pups, Stuckinred. Thanks for sharing. Raven/Boo Boo/Stinky was obviously one helluva friend.

  7. 7
    Ash Can says:

    That second picture is an absolute riot. Raven has such a perfect “Why me?” look on his face. Priceless.

  8. 8

    i can’t imagine anything better to wake up to than that story and those pictures.

    we also have a dog one of whose names is Stinky!

  9. 9

    It’s true; the more names, the more dimensions to the relationship.

    A life charted in pets covers a lot.

  10. 10
    suzanne says:

    Molly looks so much like Missy, the dog I had starting when I was twelve, who is the dog by which every dog I’ll ever have for the rest of my life will be measured.

    Great story, beautiful doggiez.

  11. 11
    Luci says:

    Waking up to the pet rescues IS the best thing in the world. This place is the first place I come every morning and it never disappoints! Thanks Stuckinred for the lovely story of your dogs.

    @Ash Can. Yes… I think Raven really does look like she’s wondering what she did that the fates gave her that white furball to deal with. ;) The look was perfect!

  12. 12
    stuckinred says:

    @suzanne: Suz, there isn’t a picture of Molly there. Which doggie did you mean?

  13. 13
    JPL says:

    @stuckinred: The dog stories and spirited discussion are what makes this site so special.
    Thanks for writing the story about the pups. BTW how big is the Bohdi now?

  14. 14
    stuckinred says:

    @JPL: He’s medium, bout 50.

  15. 15
    WyldPirate says:

    That was a great story, stuckinred. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  16. 16
    Carnacki says:

    I love these stories.

  17. 17
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    It’s always great when people just happen to call at just the right moment and there’s a pet “waiting” there for them.

  18. 18
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Thanks for these great satories, stuckinred. You’ve been blessed with the dogs in your life, but not a scrap more than they’ve been blessed to have you.

    So how do Bodhi and Lil Bit like all the snow, ice and cold?

    Edit: Stories, not satories. Rather an appropriate typo though :-)

  19. 19

    irony alert:

    add the word “better” to the words that are considered elitist, apparently.

    i had the sound on the lapper up, when i clicked on a story about the craziest baldwin flame texting hannity, there was an ad for a bargain brand detergent, the announcer voiceover actually said “gooder”.

    i have the utmost respect for ad copy as a window into the collective conscious. i can’t help but think “better” sends the wrong message, but “gooder” better reflects their prospective customer semantic sensibilities.

  20. 20
    JCT says:

    Awesome stories and a great collection of pals — a nice way to start the day.

    I love the 2nd pic as well.

  21. 21
    stuckinred says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: The Bohdi just bristles at the cold and snow and wants to chase the ball. Lil Bit has difficulty because her little paws get clogged up with ice very quickly. Our backyard slopes quite a bit and the snow is covered with a sheet of ice that is too hard for Lil Bit to penetrate so she just slides away down toward the kudzu remnants. She’s happy to just curl up on the couch and wait for spring.

  22. 22
    Annelid Gustator says:

    Anne you need to put *way* more of the text in these below the fold.

  23. 23
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    geg6 says:

    stuckinred, that is a wonderful tribute to your doggies. Brought a tear and a smile to my face.

    Much like the smile I got this morning when my Otis (yes, he’s John’s but, as John says, Otis himself has decided that I’m his human) was out in the new coating of snow we got last night. It’s that light, fluffy kind of snow and Otis just loves that stuff. He literally frolics in it, jumping around with joy and scooping it up with his nose and throwing it. It’s such a simple and pure joy and only doggies and very small children can seem to experience it with no baggage. It makes my heart soar.

    Edited to add: Bohdi looks an awful lot like my sister’s doggie, Cookie. Just too adorable.

  25. 25
    Kristine says:

    I also want to agree that the signs of a developing illness can be so subtle. A few months before Mickey was diagnosed with terminal bladder and liver cancers, I noticed that he had started peeing in two stages–he’d pee, take a few steps, then pee again. I didn’t think anything of it at the time because he was an older dog and he’d been fixed–sometimes the surgery can lead to incontinence issues. It was only after he was gone that I realized that the bladder tumor had been affecting him. He was normal in all other respects, so I didn’t follow up. I don’t know if an earlier diagnosis would have helped, but I wonder about it sometimes. You have to watch them so closely because they can’t tell you. My vet at the time also said that dogs will hide illness for as long as they can because in their world, the weak and sick are culled from the pack. So they tough it out until they can’t anymore.

  26. 26
    stuckinred says:

    @Annelid Gustator: If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter!

  27. 27
    martha says:

    Love, love, love your story kind sir. I love starting the day with these as well.

  28. 28
    Tim says:

    Thanks for sharing a beautiful story. Dogs rule.

  29. 29
    mistermix says:

    Another great story. Thanks for sharing it.

  30. 30
    Violet says:

    Lovely story and great dogs. I love that second photo. We’ve seen it before, right? The look resignation on the older dog’s face and the boundless energy and enthusiasm of the younger dog are hilarious. A scene that probably plays out over and over again.

  31. 31
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    That was depressing for a Ravens fan. Do you have a story where a Steeler dies?

  32. 32
    Paul in KY says:

    Raven has such an air of gravitas in the first picture. You & your wife are very kind people. God bless y’all.

  33. 33
    stuckinred says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: He was a Bear fan!

  34. 34
    Felonious Wench says:

    My parents have always had blond Cocker Spaniels. Of the 5 that have come and gone over the years, only one was aggressive, and that’s the first one they bought….from a pet store. Puppy mill dog.

    The first one I grew up with was named April Champagne. Dad said her name reminded him of a stripper. I said we should call her Sham because she was NOT a smart dog. It stuck. Then, there was my first one, the Roadside, Pet Quality Cocker. Found her wandering, picked her up. She had an extra nipple, a bad jaw, and her paws looked like they were on backwards. We also called her the Chernobyl Spaniel. Sweetest dog we ever had.

    Then my brother wanted a Sheltie. My favorite memory of that dog….one day, we heard the Cockers in the back yard (they had three at the time) whimpering and crying. We look outside. The Sheltie was herding the Cockers and would not let them out of their tight little formation. We had to go outside, tell her what a good dog she was, and free the traumatized Cockers.

    I only have shelter doggies now, but my parents still have their purebred blondies. Their latest one is spoiled rotten. My dad’s best friend told him once that when he reincarnates, he wants to come back as one of my dad’s dogs.

  35. 35
    stuckinred says:

    @Felonious Wench: Raven came from blondie parents in central Virginia. I am certain Lil Bit was some kind of dumped pound pup with all the problems she has. They didn’t breed the sweet out of her!

  36. 36
    Jane2 says:

    What a great story of pets well loved.

  37. 37
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @stuckinred: Where in Central Virginia?

  38. 38
  39. 39
    tesslibrarian says:

    @Felonious Wench: We had a sheltie when I was growing up, and she did that a few times in the waiting room at the vet, when the woman who had multiple poodles was also scheduled for shots. After a certain point, they made sure to schedule us on different days.

    When she was starting to fade, my parents brought home a black English cocker puppy. I think the sheltie lived an extra year, she was so offended by the behavior of the puppy. I always tell people I’ve never had to train a dog; my sheltie trained her for me.

  40. 40
    Mary G says:

    I just got up (West Coast) and was dreading today and this has given me the push to go on. What good doggies! What great owners!

    Your story was wonderful; please write some more about Ethalu, Ralph, Henry, Mr. Big and Molly with pictures when you have time.

    And that second picture is worth a thousand words.

  41. 41
    Death Panel Truck says:

    The first photo is a carbon-copy of our black cocker. His name is El Duque, and he’s five years old. He’s a handful, but a great dog. He’s never bitten anyone, but he’s almost licked a few friends of ours to death. My wife says that if our home were ever broken into, El Duque would try to lick the burglar’s face.

    As my dad used to say, “He knows no strangers.”

  42. 42
    Church Lady says:

    What a wonderful story about your dogs!

    Keep up your determination in dealing with the AHA. Our retriever, Lola, had it and we almost lost her twice, but she recovered each time. Prednisone on a daily basis is not the best thing in the world for their skin, or their girlish figure, but it is definitely a life saver.

    We lost Lola last May, but the cause was not the AHA. After dealing with it for almost six years, the AHA was still in check. Have faith.

  43. 43
    JR in WV says:

    We have had 5 dog partners, Muffin first, a valentines day pickup from the Dairy Queen, where she was coiled tightly trying to stay warm. She had a bad right rear hip, but did as well on 3 legs as most on all four. She was a rangy 35 pounder with lots of curly black and gray coat.

    Then Martha adopted a tiny puppy at work, the lady in the next cube was going to the pound after work, and we got Annie. She and Muffin were great together, Muffin showed her how to get in the car, by jumping in and out twice, and then nudging Annie to try it. She was part Airedale, and loved to run the ridges with Muffin. One day, they were gone for longer than usual, and Annie came back alone.

    Muffin was getting older, and something gave out on a WV ridge top. Not a bad way for a country dog to go. Annie went quickly from lymphoma, and I held her while the Vet did the job. Sad…

    Now we have 3 dogs, Boomer, who is 88 lbs of nervous short hair brown dog, with a white face, getting whiter all the time. He’s on meds for his hip now. He was dropped off as a pup, no idea how big he would get, glad we have hundreds of acres of forest around us! Someone dicked his tail, checked him for gun-shy, dropped him off, he quivers at thunder.

    Clyde (step-aside-Clyde; black wolf of the north, stinker) was a little black furball walking down the hill one December afternoon in the snow. He is too smart for his own good! He started limping a little one day, and before we could get worried, he lost the use of his back half! Our vet saw nothing on regular xray, Martha and I carried him into the car the next afternoon, and she took him to a Vet hospital in Columbus OH, where a MRI showed disks blown out, and adhesions with the spinal cord.

    A wonderful surgeon operated, and after a not-so-long recovery, he is 98% the same. His gaits are odd now, sometimes both lefts and both rights together, sometimes the fronts left-and-right while the backs go together, but he can still gallop.

    Then the vet, knowing we have lots of room, asked us to adopt a lab that another client had stolen off a chain where she was being tortured. She spent 9 months in their hospital in recovery, and I met her sitting on the floor of an examining room. They brought her in and let her go, and she slinked to the furthest corner and quivered.

    I just sat still, and eventually she came over to sniff my feet, and I kissed at her, and she came close enough for me to pet her. After living with her a few days, we named her Happy, cause she is. All the time! She runs til she falls over when the weather is nice, and when it isn’t she watches everything.

    She’s pretty smart, but doesn’t care to think if she doesn’t have to.

    There are 5 cats too, one is nearly 19, and sleeps on my shoulder ’cause he gets cold at night; sometimes I wake up with a little stiffness, but it’s worth it. Rufus, he’s skinny now, and on thyroid, but still purrs. The cat-to-human years chart tops out at 15=90, so he’s a hundred and something years old, but still happy mostly, so we happy to help him as much as he lets us.

    Critters are wonderful, I grew up with (first) a Great Dane I rode like a pony, a really big daschound black-and-tan, a ginger boxer, then a gap while I was single/military/on the road, until married we got a cat, black. With attitude!

    Keep the good tails coming!


  44. 44
    ruemara says:

    Dammit stuck, you got me tearing up. Raven and Bhodi and Bit are happy dogs. Thank you for being a great pair of parents.

  45. 45
    stuckinred says:

    @Church Lady: We now have here on Atopica every other day and it seems to be working. We are lucky to be where we are because the UGA vet school is a magnet for vet specialists that other folks don’t easily have access to.

  46. 46
  47. 47
    stuckinred says:

    @Church Lady: I’m not sure what put me in moderation but I wanted you to know we are using cyclosporine instead of pred.

  48. 48
    trollhattan says:

    Lovely pooches all, and quite the tale.

    And now I have this image implanted of a dog appearing out of nowhere and taking it home in my pocket. What a crazy, odd world we dwell on.

  49. 49
    Jenny says:

    loved seeing these sweet doggies! :) i loved boo-boo and love lil-bit and the bohdi! :) miss y’all.

  50. 50

    @stuckinred: Aw, there are your beautiful babies. Your story made me smile and tear up and smile some more. Raven, Bohdi, and Lil Bit are all wonderful and so cute.

    P.S. That second picture is a classic.

  51. 51
    PBrazelton says:

    I don’t know why I read these fucking stories at work. Crying at your desk is very unprofessional.

    Great tale, stuckinred.

  52. 52
    stuckinred says:

    @Jenny: Good to see you here at Balloon Juice, there are some whack-jobs here, you’d love em!

  53. 53
    ed_finnerty says:

    Almost exactly one year ago my poochie Oreo was diagnosed with lung cancer. He had one lobe (of five) removed and then went on chemo. He is doing fine. Doctor says if he makes it 8 months the average is 20 and some make it for 3 years. He is nearly 14 years old so the timing was about right anyways.

    I had absolutely no idea that such a world existed where dogs could get treated for cancer. I felt like an idiot spending all that time and money (actually I think I worried that people would think I was and idiot) but we couldn’t just let him die. We would (will) miss him. He is probably the only reason we are sane.

    Anyways, meeting all of the other idiots treating their dogs for cancer reveals some of the finer angels of our nature

  54. 54
    Sko Hayes says:

    That second picture reminded me of an LOL pic, of an older dog with “That Look” on his face, and a very happy, fluffy white puppy beside him. The caption read:

    This not what I meant when I said fluffy toy

    Wonderful stories. Isn’t it funny sometimes how dogs come into our lives?

  55. 55
    WaterGirl says:

    @stuckinred: Great stories! My (english) cocker was diagnosed with autoimmune hemolytic anemia and she lived to be 16. Not sure what they do now, but pred was the treatment then. We slowly lowered her dosage over time from several pills twice a day to 1/2 of a single pill in the morning. She was a great dog and had a good, long life, hope yours does, too.

  56. 56
    stuckinred says:

    @WaterGirl: That is great to hear, as I said upthread we are using cyclosporine on the advice of some pretty heavy duty specialists here in the Athens are. Thanks.

  57. 57
    pjcamp says:

    Dogs are better than people.

    Beautiful story.

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