Dogs, grief and gratitude

sarah-greyOur year ended on a sad note as we said goodbye to our sweet old girl, Sarah. She was our coffee-loving, bean crunching girl. We got her in 1999, the same year we bought our house. Howie and I both grew up with dogs and loved them, but as renters we’d not been able to own one the first seven years we were married. So, with the new house came the decision to add a dog to our family.

The girls We found her by way of a classified ad offering her puppies. When we got to the house, Sarah greeted us enthusiastically, wagging her tail and rolling over for belly rubs. Her pups were four months old and still nursing her in addition to eating puppy food. Unlike their mother, however, they were shy and fearful. We asked if they were trying to find a home for Sarah and they said yes.

Her owners said she was born in 1997 or 1998, offspring of one of their beagles (which they raised for hunting) and a chow. The beagle genes were readily apparent, but the chow didn’t contribute much. If her daddy even was a chow.

She had a strong prey drive and a busy beagle nose. She was fine with our indoor cats, but woe to any animals she encountered outside! I think the only animal to ever stand her down was an opossum who turned to face her. Suddenly Sarah had other pressing business.

What she really lived for was squirrels. If she saw one, she’d chase it to a tree and sit at the tree’s base, staring up, as long as you’d let her. If you clicked your tongue in a vague mimicry of a squirrel, she’d perk up, whine and go to the nearest window to look for one. She never tired of this! She knew squirrels lived in trees, so when we’d go by trees while out driving, she would get very excited. Yes, she was just a little obsessed with them. 🙂

Cheeky squirrelWe even had one particularly cheeky squirrel who would come right up to the front window and tease her. At times, they’d be staring each other down, nose-to-nose, with only a double-paned window between them. She also loved to watch the fish in our pond. And she was very interested in the large pleco fish in our aquarium.

sarah-bw-patio-naps-1-wBut she was also the most obedient dog we’d ever had — and no thanks to us! From the day we brought her home, she stayed right by us and came when called. She routinely dashed out the back door and made a circle through the neighbor’s yard when we let her out (scouting for squirrels), but she came right back when we called her. We wished we could take credit for her manners!

She was our constant companion in the garden, our “moley dog” who burrowed beneath the covers every night, and our fearless watchdog. Actually, the only person she guarded us against was the mailman; she really hated the mail carriers and pitched a fit whenever one would come and dare to drop mail through the slot in our front door.

Sarah had her fifteen minutes of fame in this video:

She won second place in the contest. My photos of her and our other dogs were also pictured on Innova Pet’s line of Karma organic dog food promotional materials. That story is here.

Sarah had some sort of episode overnight and on the morning of December 28, she appeared to have had a stroke. Her head was cocked to one side and her eyes darted rapidly back and forth (nystagmus). She could not stand and walk, but stumbled as she tried to balance. From what I looked up, strokes are rare in dogs and she most likely had canine vestibular syndrome (also called peripheral vestibular syndrome), a common ailment of the inner ear and one which she might have recovered from.

Sarah woofs for her bean However, we had to look at the hard facts. She was fourteen years old and had recurring problems with her hind legs. No one in our household is physically capable of bending and carrying a 35-pound dog multiple times a day; considering the dizziness made her so she could barely stand, let alone walk, she would have to be carried outside to go potty. Dogs with this condition can take weeks to recover, and often must be given anti-nauseal drugs because the vertigo makes them sick to their stomachs (imagine being severely seasick all the time).

We couldn’t see putting our old girl through all of this. Our vet said it could also have been caused by a brain tumor. Given the many visible lumps and bumps all over our old girl, it well could have been a tumor causing the symptoms. It could also have been a stroke, though unlikely. Our vet advised that we’d likely be prolonging the inevitable if we tried waiting it out. So, with hearts brimming with sadness, we made the difficult decision to euthanize her.

Sarah begs for her beanHopefully it will be many years before we have to face this heartache again. Those of you who have loved a pet deeply know how we feel, know that those who dismiss such grief with “it’s just a dog” don’t get it. Losing a pet is so painful, but they joy they bring to our lives fills me with gratefulness.

Our vet sent us a lovely sympathy card, one which our brindle girl Stella sniffed out of the pile of mail as soon as it hit the floor. She then tried to open for us. Having come from the vet’s office, the paper must be redolent with all kinds of interesting smells. We’re so glad we have our remaining girls to make us laugh!

This is a picture story that illustrates one such gift of laughter from Sarah:

Pit bull terriers get a bad rap

This is a great video. The family’s pit bull bugged his owner frantically until he came with him to find out what was bothering him. The dog saved the baby’s life. This family has had their children saved by pit bulls not once, but twice.

There’s a reason Staffordshire bull terriers, a foundation for the American pit bull terrier, was called the nanny dog for years before the powers that be decided to make bully breeds the evil dogs of the decade. They’re extremely affectionate, loyal family dogs that are gentle with children and other animals when they’re trained to be.

There are many myths being spread about pit bulls, such as one that says their jaws lock. That’s just not true. You can read more about these erroneous claims at these links:

The media demonizes dog breeds, working people into a frenzy. Think about it. The media’s been shoving scary stories down our throats for decades. In the 80’s it was the doberman, then in the 90’s it was rottweilers. Now it’s the pit bull terrier and similar-looking breeds. Where will it end?

Dog Bites

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a report on dog bites by breed in the US. You can read and download it here. Be sure to read through it, though, not just scan the tables. The authors explain how the figures were derived and point out the flaw in just looking at numbers alone.

You will find that rottweilers, German shepherds and pit bulls have high numbers of dog bite deaths. So do great Danes. There’s no doubting that a big dog with a big set of teeth can really hurt a person. But also consider this: the numerous nips and aggressive bites from vicious small dogs will not only inflict a lot less damage, but will often go unreported. People tend to report large dogs because they perceive them to be more vicious.

You can read the American Veterinary Medicine Association’s paper, A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention.

Temperament Testing

Additionally, temperament tests done by the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS) show pit bulls to rank very highly on their temperament tests. The higher the percentage of dogs that passed the test, the better the overall temperament of that breed. Here’s a sampling of some popular breeds in America:

  • Pug: 90.5%
  • American Pit Bull Terrier: 85.3%
  • Golden Retriever: 84.6%
  • German Shepherd: 83.7
  • Rottweiler: 83%
  • Beagle 81%
  • Doberman Pinscher: 77.4%
  • Chihuahua: 71%
You can view the test results of all breeds at this link.

Breed Specific Laws (BSL)

Punish the deed, not the breed. Aside from penalizing responsible dog owner, BSL’s just don’t work for the purposes for which they’re written. People who fight dogs breed for aggression and abuse their dogs; they also use their dogs as weapons. The pit bull naturally wants to please and protect its owner, and unscrupulous individuals exploit this.  People like that are going to produce dogs that bite because they encourage it.

It’s not the responsible, law-abiding dog owners who should be punished. The website Stop BSL’s (Breed specific laws) has detailed information regarding BSL and provides an excellent list of resources.

Some pit bull resources on the web:

Pitbull411: “…Here you can find everything pit bull including a history of the pitbull, the breed profile, pit bull photos, pit bull rescue and adoption organizations, as well as pit bull breeders.”

Pit Bulls on the Web: The site owner’s objectives: (1) Help dogs in need and the people who care about them, (2) educate Pit Bull owners so that unpleasant accidents are avoided, but Pit Bull ownership enjoyed, (3) promote responsible Pit Bull ownership and positive leadership, (4) continue to learn about the breed and stay true to my conjunctions, and (5) raise a loud voice against those who promote, support, or participate in the abuse and cruelty of animals.

Find the pit bull: Only one of the 25 pictures features a pit bull terrier. All the dogs pictured are purebred representations of their breeds.
It may not be as easy as you think. Can you spot the lone pit bull? Can your friends and family? It’s a real eye-opener!

Pit Bull Rescue Central:  “Pit Bull Rescue Central envisions a compassionate world where pit bulls and pit bull mixes reside in responsible, loving homes and where their honor and positive image is restored and preserved.”

I have one more video before I close. Please prepare yourself for images of a vicious pit bull, scary Siamese mix cat, and chicks. Get ready to rumble!

I hope that this entry, along with the links I’ve provided, will encourage people to challenge stereotypes. If you’re a pit bull lover and have additional resources, please drop me a comment or an e-mail and let me know. I can expand this list of resources. I know this is a controversial topic, but I will not tolerate rude or offensive posts in the comments; expect any such comments to be deleted.

Make a noise like a frog!

A six year old went to the hospital with her grandmother to visit her Grandpa.

When they got to the hospital, she ran ahead of her Grandma and burst into her Grandpa’s room…

“Grandpa, Grandpa,” she said excitedly, “As soon as Grandma comes into the room, make a noise like a frog!”

“What?” said her Grandpa.

Michigan J Frog

Make a noise like a FROG!“, she squealed again. “Grandma said that as soon as you croak, we’re all going to Disneyland!!”

Christmas dénouement

We had a good Christmas. Christmas Eve, my parents and two of Howie’s brothers came over to my mother-in-law’s (downstairs at our house). We had the usual ham, baked beans, macaroni salad, and desserts. My mom and I visited with Nancy while the guys played euchre.

Christmas day, Howie’s other brother and his wife came to visit in the early afternoon. We had leftovers, all the aforementioned stuff, only cold. Then we went to my folks’ house for Christmas dinner. More ham. I am hammed out. It’s safe to say we’re now retaining enough water, we could probably just roll from room to room. We were at my mom’s from 3-9:30pm and had a really nice visit.

Presents? Yes, there were presents. We got dad a gift certificate for a local buffet. There’s a group of senior citizens who play euchre there a couple Wednesdays a month and he really enjoys that. There’s a 98-year old lady there who told him his beret was sexy. 😉

We gave my mom some organizers for her scrapbook stuff, a cute little ceramic cup sculpted to look like an owl, a Fiskars fingertip craft knife, a Fiskars mini easy stamp press, some acrylic stamps, and various paper. I also gave her a dragonfly pin adorned with various rhinestones. Bling, don’t ya know.

She and dad gave Howie a micro-SDHC card for his phone and some Christmas ornaments. Mom gave me an ornament, some scrapbooking stuff, and a rubber stamp of an Itialian greyhound or greyhound which strongly resembles our Emma.

Howie’s present to me was one he touted was really for both of us. I could tell from its heft and shape that it was a book. I unwrapped it and saw it was Garrison Keillor’s WLT, A Radio Romance.

“Oooh, ummm, I think I have this one already”, I said.

“Yeah, considering I got it off our bookshelf”, he replied.

Just then I noticed something sticking out from the pages. Tickets! He bought a pair of tickets to the January 20th appearance of Garrison Keillor at the Midland Theater! I was so surprised – he really got me. I’d forgotten all about Keillor coming to our town. This isn’t a Prairie Home Companion broadcast, just a solo performance. I can’t wait!

I got Howie the season 7 DVD set of The Waltons and a neat little palm-sized mini remote control helicopter. He can’t wait to tease the cats with the helicopter.

Scrabble Express game great when you’re short on time

Howie and I found a great new game at Target last night. It’s not brand new, but a variation on Scrabble called Scrabble Express. They market it as being a 20-minute game.

Scrabble isn’t the only express version out there, though. There are several Hasbro express games available, including Monopoly, Clue, Sorry, and Battleship. Howie and I love the idea of having a few quick-to-play games to keep handy for trips to the coffee shop or a game at home.

They’re brief games nice for kids with shorter attention spans — well, shoot, for adults with short attention spans!

We haven’t played the express versions of the other games, but I can tell you about Scrabble Express since we did play it last night. First, let me tell you the main way it differs from a regular Scrabble game.A traditional Scrabble game includes 100 letter tiles and a board consisting of a 15×15 grid.

In the Express game, however, there are 12 dice, each with 6 different letters on them; the Q is actually Qu and there is one blank.The playing board is an 11×11 grid. Also in the snap-lidded plastic game box are a 1-minute timer, black bag for the dice, a small pad of paper, and a pencil. The container is compact and sturdy.

Play is easy. Each player rolls a die and the person with the letter closest to A goes first. This process replaces each person drawing tiles to see who goes first.

Assuming you’re the first one up, you roll seven dice, then make a word on the board out of the letters you get. You score the words like you would in a regular game of Scrabble, only this board has both double and triple word and letter score squares.

When you’re done making your word, you put the remaining letters back in the bag. The next player removes 7 dice from the bag and rolls them. If there are less than 7, the player rolls all of the dice. That person has to make a word which connects with your word at some point.

When that person’s done placing a word on the board and tallying up his score, he removes the previous player’s word from the board, with the exception of the single letter where his word joined the previously-played word. Any leftover dice join the previous word’s dice in the bag for the next player to use.

So, you see, there is only one word on the board at the beginning of each person’s turn. This process continues until someone reaches 200 points or some other pre-determined figure. There is a minute timer you can use if you want to keep the game moving (no word in 1 minute means you get no points for your turn).

I liked the game because people can talk and visit while playing. Since each new turn means new letters, there is no need to ponder your rack of letters and figure out what you’re going to play two or three turns ah

ead. It’s also a nice quick game to play at the coffee shop, which is what we did last night. Our friends Steve and Francie joined us and played a round with us. With the timer in use, a game only takes about 20 minutes; our game went longer than that, but still not as long as a full game of Scrabble would have gone.

If you like playing games, but your friends and family don’t always want to commit to a long drawn-out game, these express games might be just the thing for you!

I’m a poor 1930’s wife

Ruh-roh. Thanks to Elle and Tami, I’ve learned that I am not a very good 1930’s wife! Horrendous test, this!


As a 1930s wife, I am

Take the test!

…But in my defense, I think I’m a pretty darned good 2000’s wife. For one, I am one who reacts with pleasure and delight to marital congress. That alone tips the scale in my favor, I think!

Seeing how my age coincides with my score of 41, perhaps by the time I reach my 60’s and 70’s, I will catch up with Tami and Elle on the wife-ometer. By that time, they’ll be quizzing us on what kind of turn-of-the-21st-century wives and husbands we are.

There’s a version for men, too, so don’t be shy fellas. Both my male and female readers can just head on over and see how you measure up to the unrealistic standards of 1930’s society!