Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

Mortality in Dog Years

It has been a stressful couple of weeks. I resolved that I would update the blog more often this year, but we ran into a little snag. Our dog, Penny, had to have surgery just after New Year to remove a lump on her chest.


Penny at the vet before the surgery. The lump is plain to see.

The vet was pretty sure it was just a ‘fat’ lump – apparently labs are prone to this sort of thing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. It turned out to be an intermediate-grade sarcoma. This made the operation more involved and the vet had to put a drain in afterwards. The lump had to be sent to pathology so for a few days we waited for the outcome. The good news was the lump was benign – the not so good news is that there is a reasonable chance it will return.


Our sad multi-coloured dog. Lots of vet wrap holding the dressings in place.

After five days we got another surprise. Penny began having great difficulty getting to her feet. She was having real trouble with her back end and would cry whenever she put weight on her legs. So, another trip to the vet and this time we got some pain medication and antibiotics. These helped but two days later, the drain retracted back into her and yet another trip to the vet. We were getting really good at dressing changes and dealing with a very sad dog. It was almost two weeks after the surgery that we finally went back to the vet to get the stitches out. The vet’s assistants took into Penny into the back. We knew she was done when we heard scrambling and Penny dragging the assistant out of the treatment room – a much happier dog. So, now things look better. She is still not completely her old self but we don’t have to worry about dressings and leakage and all the rest of the issues.


Penny showing off her war wounds

It struck me that over the last 10 years, I have watched Penny as a youngster grow into an adult and now into a senior citizen – all the stages of human existence compressed into a decade. The prognosis is for one to three years before we may expect a recurrence. This was not a cheap procedure and given her age in a couple of years, I will really have to think long and hard if we do have to deal with this again. It will not be an easy decision. But we will do the best we can do when the time comes. Until then, we will enjoy her company. Hopefully, I can start catching up on my sleep!


A young Penny watching the front door


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When I think back about Christmas in my past, I find it interesting that I don’t particularly remember what I got as presents, as much as the people and the moments we shared. My memories are about playing with my cousins when I was young – enjoying the Christmas dinner – and after I left home, coming back to be with family and friends. And as I grew older with my own family, there were the rituals that evolved.

For the last few years, board games have been a part of Christmas Day. Being called upon to be an arbitrator in Scrabble disputes or participating in a cut-throat game of Monopoly, it is fun to watch the family dynamics take place. It has become clear that despite the commercial pressures and build-up to the day, the important thing is not the what, but the who.

Penny waiting for her turn at Monopoly.

Penny waiting for her turn at Monopoly.

And this year, not wanting to be left out, our old lab/border collie cross decided she was going to play with us. In the middle of the game, she came downstairs and plopped herself between two of the kids and waited for her turn. Another Christmas memory for us all.

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Damn, I am good with resolutions. Come the first of January, I can make them with the best of the them. And I have already abandoned about half of them. My sister scooped me on the shot a day for Flickr … but, if I can do a shot a week, then I am doing well. Learning guitar scales and practising – that lasted 2 days.

But I have one that I am motivated to keep. That is to walk my puppy every day – this is both for me and for her. We have become too sedentary in our lifestyles and doing something for her is a good incentive for me. However, tonight will be the test. The temperature dropped about 30 degrees over the last day and the wind chill is now in the minus 20s. The walk may not be as long … but we will get out there.


Now for the resolution to write more blog posts … there is always next year.

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Not only did we get our winter storm last week, now the temperature has gone into the tank. This morning. our puppy decided that 5 in the morning is a good time to go to the little girl’s room. This means a trek for both of us to the back door since I no longer want to open the french doors in the master bedroom. I caught a look at our outdoor thermometer while she was out doing her business (which, surprisingly took no time at all). It was -26.9°C. The normal minimum temperature for the City Centre Airport in November is -8.2°C, so we are a wee bit colder. Wind chills yesterday were in the -30 range – this is not fun. However the forecast is for +8 by Tuesday. No wonder the kids in my earth sciences lab have a hard time with this sort of thing.

I've had enough of this!

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Puppy Pictures

As I continue my scanning mission, I ran across some shots taken on the first night Penny arrived at our house. She was cute – still is now, but in a different sense. Penny’s dad was a purebred yellow Lab while Mom was a mix, with a lot of border collie. Dad was a big sweetheart – Mom not so much but that may have been because she was being protective around her babies. Penny arrived home on June 1, 2004 when she was about six weeks old.

Penny's Dad giving Ian a kiss

Penny's Mom - An interesting mix whose name was "Puppy"

Chewing already

This was probably the only time she slept in the kennel - and no, that is not what you think it is.

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Getting Better

I haven’t given up on the blog – it has just taken me a long time to get better after the flu. With my second son coming down with a slightly different version of the flu yesterday, we are still not through with it in our house.

But rather than dwell on health issues, I want to talk about my dog.

Penny is an almost 7 year old yellow lab/border collie cross. We got her from a farm family south of Edmonton. She was the only blonde in a litter of 8. Dad was a purebred yellow lab who drooled buckets but was a big sweetheart. Mom was mostly border collie but had some other sides to her as well – our vet thinks Penny has some greyhound in her based on her long, thin tail.

Penny was the most rambunctious of all the pups from what we could see. She would run around knocking over her brothers and sisters when we visited to look over the puppies. My third son was very taken with a chocolate coloured puppy that was a lot more docile but the majority voted to get Penny.


Penny as a pup

Our previous dog was a golden retriever named Molly. She was a rescue dog that we picked up from the Edmonton Kennel Club’s adoption program when she was about three years old. So Penny was our first experience with a puppy.

And it was an experience. Finding those little wet spots or piles on the carpet in the morning was always entertaining. We tried to crate train Penny but her cries and whines soon got to us and we gave up on that. She went to puppy kindergarten and learned a number of commands. There is no doubt that she is a smart dog – and if there is food involved, she learns all the faster.

Someone told us that labs take a long time to mature and leave puppyhood. Penny was no exception. She has sort of a goofy side to her and even today, with a little coaxing, will play as long as you want.


Hey, Who Took the Remote?

But there is another side to Penny that didn’t emerge until a couple years ago. In mid 2008, I became ill with salmonella. I ended up in emergency after a particular difficult night in and out of the bathroom. When I returned home from emergency, I promptly went to bed. While I was in bed, it took me a while to realize that Penny was coming into the bedroom on a regular basis. She would walk to my side of the bed and stick her nose in my general direction. She would stay for a minute or two and then wander off again. I realized after a while that she was checking up on me. She didn’t want anything; she was just seeing if I was alright.

Unfortunately the salmonella led to a condition called reactive arthritis. The arthritis caused my joints to swell, especially my knees and ankles. After the first session to have my right knee drained, Penny did something she had never done before. As I went to bed after getting back from the hospital, she jumped on to the bed and lay down beside me – and she didn’t leave until the next morning. As I got better, she her stays on the bed were shorter and shorter but there is no doubt she could recognize that I was sick.

With this latest case of the flu, I was quite ill for a couple of days. I ran a temperature of close to 104oF for a while and was quite out of it (even more than normal!). And again Penny hopped onto the bed and stayed with me. However this time was even different from before. Dog owners will know that our pets are creatures of habit. Penny will normally come into the bedroom between 6:00 and 6:30 every day – knowing that eventually I will get up and feed her.

But this time she jumped up around 10:00 at night and stayed for the entire night. I recall waking up several times and finding her lying right up against me as if being in physical contact was important. I had a restless couple of nights and found I got my best sleep around 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. Penny never left my side. I know she was hungry but unless I was going to get up, she was not going to move. When I did finally get up around 9:00 she waited until I actually got into the kitchen before she came out to get fed. And for the rest of the days, she was very attentive – wherever I went in the house she was there, including staying outside the bathroom waiting for me to finish.

I appreciate that I am the “alpha dog” in our pack but I am still touched by the concern and devotion she displays. Sort of makes all the other issues of pet ownership seem small in that light. She is definitely a “good” dog.


Our Girl

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Borrowed from a friend’s blog … thanks Robyn!

On the 12th day of Christmas, my human gave to me:

12 milk bones
11 deer to race
10 car rides
9 mailmen chased
8 hidden bones
7 swimming swans
6 rabbits bounding
5 squirming mice
4 falling birds
3 dead squirrels
2 chew toys,
and a long long nap on a soft bed


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