Tennis Balls and Meatballs: Jeter (July 30, 2009 – December 31, 2017)

Me:  “Can you help me remember how to smile?  Make it somehow all seem worthwhile.”   While this line from a 1990s hit has nothing to do with grief (it is a song about kids who run away), it seemed poignant today when I walked into Wawa.  It was the first thing I heard when i walked in, and it just hit me as being so appropriate.   I have smiled a lot today over the memories of Jeter, and it is the dogs that my wife and I will continue to give homes to that makes it all worthwhile.  They, just like us, can’t live forever.    We have lost two in the last year (Josh in February), which is sad but we will get through it.  Below is Jeter’s last blog entry (though flashbacks are always possible), as he crossed over the rainbow bridge on New Year’s Eve.

Jeter:   Daddy is telling me that he wants to take me for a “final” walk through the neighborhood, since that is one of my favorite things to do.   Don’t ask me why walking around town with cancer in my body on a day where I will freeze my tail off is the definition of “fun”, but I will oblige.  If you have read this blog long enough, you know I am the wise guy dog of the bunch.  If you think I am going to be “whoa is me” when writing this blog post, this is not the post for you.   I live my life with humor and happiness, and cancer, no matter how advanced, is not going to make me change.

When I take this final stroll through the neighborhood, if my dog calculations are correct (tough to punch in numbers with my big paws on this small calculator my daddy provided me), I would have walked somewhere over 2,000 times in my lifetime.  TWO THOUSAND.  And I am supposed to sit here, feeling sorry for myself when I got to do one of the things I enjoy the most that many times?    This is going to be fun, and nostalgic.  I am sure Alanis (who I guess must come, or else she will do her diva thing and whine the whole time we are away) will oblige in letting me do what I want to do on this walk, and not what she wants to do.   I hope the people who commented on my absence recently are looking out the windows today, because I am going to be strutting my stuff like I never have before.   I will be slower, as my illness has greatly impacted me over the course of the last several hours, but I am going to do it like a champ.

Why have my walks been less frequent recently, or shorter in duration?  Because everyone thought I had an injury, and that I needed rest.  Injury?  I wish it was an injury, or maybe I don’t.  Who wants to live out their final months, years, or whatever chronically injured?  Not this dog.  I want to go all out, each and every day.    Regardless, the rest was really not doing me much good, as the “injury” was a red herring for something worse.    But that is OK.  Injured or sick, who cares?  Life is precious, and I am going to make these last hours count just as much as my first hours.  I would say that cancer decided to pick on the wrong dog today, but I am in no mood for such proclamations.  I will say that if cancer thought it would kill the dog that I am, it was wrong.   You think you won, but you didn’t.  I am at peace with my life…and you will never once define me.

See, only yesterday, I was out back chasing a tennis ball, trying to convince you that I was happy and healthy.    You thought I was injured, so you stopped the game early even though I wanted to go on.  I knew (did I?) that this may be the last game I would ever play, but you were convinced otherwise.  Don’t feel bad about that, for I did my job:  I didn’t want anybody to worry.  I wanted you to think that there would be more ball to be played at another time.

Only yesterday, you decided to take away the barrier that stopped me from going upstairs.   The barrier you thought was keeping me from hurting myself further.    You didn’t know it, but unless you had a magical cancer block for my internal organs, nothing you could do was going to prevent me from hurting myself further.  (It is doubtful that even a cancer block would have helped me, either)   I did my job, yet again.  I convinced you that all I had was an achy leg or a sore hip.  I am proud of myself for that, as who wants to think that a tumor was doing this to me?   I had the magic of the fake out – just when you started worrying about me, I was able to flip the script by playing with Alanis, or picking up one of the several Christmas toys Santa Paws brought for us.  I didn’t eat that day?  I figured out quickly that it put you both in panic mode, and that meals must be eaten, even on those days where my body didn’t want to work to digest things I put in my body.

I took full advantage of having the stairs back, as I went up them to jump on the bed to sleep with my mommy.   I needed that last night by my mommy’s side.  That jump on the bed was pure adrenaline – I shouldn’t have been able to do that, but I had to.  I needed to feel the warmth of that bed while laying with my mommy.     Did I cry in pain that night?  Of course not.   I was not going to allow her to worry about me on this special night.  I was going to sleep peacefully and allow myself to enjoy these moments while I still had them.

I thought my game was up when you decided to take me to the vet a few times over the last several weeks.    How can I hide my illness from a vet?    I didn’t even have to, because my symptoms as described are typically associated with manageable conditions.    I wagged my tail, refused to do any hacking, and let you examine me from head to toe.  I had a little mass on my leg?  I am an 8-year old Golden.  Those are fatty tumors!  I wasn’t moving well?  It is frigid outside, my breed is prone to arthritis, and I am 8 years old.  Easily explained!     Don’t sit there and think I am blaming my doctor for what happened to me, because I was a goner the moment it invaded my body.     I am GLAD nobody ran a test on this two months ago, because I likely wouldn’t have been able to live out the final two months I had.  As soon as this was discovered, my life was going to be over.  Prolonging that diagnosis allowed me a final Thanksgiving.  It gave me those final rides through New Jersey to see Christmas lights.  A final trip to see one of my grandmothers for a plate of meatballs.  A final Christmas night with my mommy, daddy, and Alanis.   One last trip to the dog treat bank.   Wait, you don’t know what a dog treat bank is?    It is an amazing concept:  Mommy and daddy drive up to this machine that contains this cylinder.  They drop pieces of paper into the cylinder, put it back into the machine, and viola!  A magical dog treat comes back.  If your town doesn’t have one of these amazing inventions, you may as well move now.

Telling my mommy early this morning that I wasn’t feeling well was hard.  I was restless, refusing to go to sleep.   I was trying to get myself to fall asleep so that nobody would worry, but it became too unbearable.  I guess cancer can bring you to the point where there is no return.  Who knew?  I certainly didn’t.  I had no choice but to start whimpering.  Softly, mind you, because crying too loudly would set off a panic that I certainly didn’t want to hear.   I am too sensitive to that kind of thing.   Thunder makes me run for the hills, and the sound of a fly buzzing in the house puts me in complete panic (thankfully, Alanis eats them for me.   That little brat is good for a few things.)

When my mommy and daddy first visited me on my litter mates back in 2009, I knew right away that I wanted to be mommy’s dog (I probably could have done without daddy, but I guess it was a package deal).  The moment I was put in her lap, I fell asleep.   I was the runt of my litter, and that came to pass through my adult years, as I was a very small Golden Retriever for a male (my weight rarely went above 55 pounds).   My parents were thrilled when they got that phone call from the breeder, telling them that I was matched up with them.   They may have been thrilled, but I was ecstatic when my dog mommy (“Summer”) told me the news.   She gave me a nice, big sloppy kiss when my family picked me up to take me home.    On my upcoming final ride to the vet, I think I will make this full circle – I will put my head on my mommy’s lap as daddy drives us there (editorial note:  That is exactly what he did.  He was so peaceful in that back seat, as if he knew what was coming and was not going to fight against it)

My favorite meal isn’t a $50 bag of the best kibble my parents can afford, and my favorite toy isn’t some $20 green thing with 8 legs that my parents called a “turtle”. (That was Josh’s favorite toy, but my big mentor had expensive taste….)    All I need is a rolled up piece of fried beef you called a “meatball” and a little, round yellow thing you called a “tennis ball”.    Give me those two things, a leash to walk on,  and some water (which I refuse to drink unless it is FRESH! I am a quirky little thing), and my life is perfect.   My mommy and daddy will keep telling me that I deserve to be spoiled, but I don’t look at life through that lens.   Want to spoil me?  Spend more hours of your life with me than you do without me.   That is the ultimate spoil, and I had that for my entire lifetime, which I am grateful for.  I was never alone – on those rare occasions that my parents left me at home, I had dogs here with me.    Talk about a charmed kind of life, no?

My life was full of joy and anxious moments.  I had two seizures in my lifetime, both occurring during the Final Jeopardy theme song.  You think that is a silly coincidence?   After the second seizure, my parents put Final Jeopardy on mute…and I never had another seizure.  My mommy accidentally forgot to mute it one night, and I started making strange noises in my sleep.   You can take me in for expensive tests to see why I am seizing, or you can just cut that damn Alex Trebek out of my life.   Thankfully,  I didn’t have to go under a microscope, and they didn’t have to cut out watching Jeopardy.  Just as long as they kept that damn tune on mute.

One time, I was walking across the boardwalk to the beach, when a man with a big, scary bag walked by me.  I got so freaked out that I slipped my collar and fell to the sand below.   Thud!    That may not have been a fun little adventure for my parents, but I found it to be funny.  I brushed myself off, ran to some steps, and worked my way back up to the boardwalk to continue my adventure.

My biggest mission in my life that everyone says was too short but I think has been more than long enough was helping my mommy heal from her serious, multi-year illness that invaded her body.   It was my goal in life to make sure she felt better before I had to go, and I fulfilled that dream.   How in tune was I with my mommy?   Daddy didn’t even have to ask mommy how she was feeling every day – he could tell just by MY actions.    I would never leave her side.   I did everything I could to put a smile on her face even when she thought there was no reason to smile.   I think to myself now that I was put on this earth to help somebody get through their darkest hour, and that is exactly what I did.   My bond with my mommy was unbreakable.  I went everywhere with her, and she went everywhere with me.

When Josh wrote his final blog post back in February, I had no idea I was going to be writing my own before 2017 came to a close.  I was so sad that day, and for many days that followed, you could find me laying down next to the last “cone of shame” that Josh wore in his lifetime.   Josh may run away at first when he sees me walking across that bridge, but don’t worry, big buddy.  I am not coming to torment you….well, maybe for a few minutes for old time’s sake.

When Alanis first came into my life, I wasn’t all that fond of her.  I may have even growled at her when we first met at a dog park.  Oops!  Sorry, girl – but you came to understand that my nature was to not trust a new dog at first sight.   If a dog came charging at us during a walk, I put myself in front of you, making sure the dog didn’t get near you.  I didn’t know if the dog was friendly or unfriendly, but I never took that chance.   To get to you, he would need to get through me.   Alanis is attached to my hip, and I know she will be devastated to lose her playmate and partner in crime (though she commits all the crimes in this partnership!)   Don’t be sad for too long, my friend – life is too short, and I don’t want you to have sadness.   Take out your toys and play.  Go on your walks, even if you don’t enjoy them quite as much as I do (no dog can possibly enjoy them more than me).  If you want to honor me, do so by mentoring the next dog that walks through these doors.  That was going to be my job, but things can change.  I would do my best to hang on longer if I thought you weren’t up for it.  You are.

My grandmothers always made sure they had treats or meatballs ready when I arrived, even though they didn’t have dogs of their own.  I thank you for all the hospitality you provided, and for allowing me in your homes.  I understand not everyone allows dogs into their homes (losers), so I am happy that my extended family was OK with that.

My daddy played with me, from fetching the ball to wrestling on the bed to a good, old-fashioned game of hide-and-seek.  I figured out all his hiding places, so the game eventually became “Hide, and I will run right to you in five seconds”, but it was still a fun activity.    I found out early on that Josh was the rare Golden who didn’t care much for tennis balls.  I made up for that in spades and enjoyed all the games we would play.  I loved my time in obedience school, even if you occasionally made me sit a bit too long just for a stupid little piece of string cheese.   Why was I so eager to please my owners?  This man deserved at least one pee on his head.

My mommy gave me more love than any dog can ask for.  She would cuddle with me, she would pet me, she would feed me.  She made sure I always had my share of yummy treats, and that I would get to go on as many adventures in the car as humanly possible.  One of my favorite passions was going to the beach, and I enjoyed all of my days as a beach bum dog.    The bond we had was a bond that most owners only wish they can have with their dogs.   I certainly hate to leave you without that constant companion by your side, but my physical presence is no longer needed.  I have stamped myself in your heart and soul, and because of that, I can leave without needing to worry about whether you will be OK.

I am feeling a bit sicker now, and my Daddy wants to take me on this walk.  Will you shut up, already?  You asked me to type this, and now you are asking me to wrap it up.  I can’t please this man – maybe I can do something to make him fall on this walk to give me one last laugh (trust me, it doesn’t take much).    I feel right now as I have been hit over the head with a bunch of bricks, but I don’t let that get me down – I will instead build a house with them.   Yes, I know that something is going on that will put this chapter of my life to a close.  This is not a final chapter, however, as I am always somewhere.  You may not see my smiling face or my wagging tail physically, but you know it is there.  Forever.

I didn’t live my life with a clock attached to it.  I never woke up in the morning, wondering if I was going to be hit by a car or by an incurable disease.  No two days are connected in my life – every time I wake up, it is time for something new.  A new adventure, a new dog food, a new treat, a new toy.  A walk through a new neighborhood, a ride through a new town.

I leave you now in peace, as I know my paws are soon going to walk away from the sidewalks and towards a bridge to much happiness.     I thank you all, and love you all.  My sweet, precious presence will only be stronger when it enters your thoughts and your hearts.

Love and Peace,

Jeter

Me:   There are not enough words to describe Jeter.  He was everything one could ever want in a dog x 1,000,000.  He was delightfully quirky, very loving, and was playing and goofing around all the way up to his final hours.   We are heartbroken, but also know that we made this decision before Jeter could suffer for even a minute, and that will always make us feel as if we made his life complete from start to finish.   While I stayed in the room while he was being put down (I needed that), Colleen was able to last see him as a dog with a wagging tail, as she left before the procedure.   Who wouldn’t want their last image of their companion to be that of happiness and joy?
“Jeter” didn’t really get into it, but I will:  He had hemangiosarcoma , one of the most aggressive forms of cancer found in canines.   Golden Retrievers are, unfortunately, prone to this disease, and it rarely (if ever) presents itself at a time when your dog may have a slight chance to survive it for a few months.  There is no cure, and no way to prevent it.  Jeter had impeccable bloodlines; he was a part of a one-time litter between a very healthy female and a male that was chosen by the breeder after a very careful search.   While this will likely reduce the risk of your dog dying from this horrible disease, always remember that dogs are like humans, and sometimes cancer strikes those who have a family history that suggests it shouldn’t.
Are there signs your dog may have this cancer?  Yes.  The problem is that those signs present themselves in ways that other diseases or conditions can present themselves.  Dogs with cancer will sometimes “limp”, but when you have an 8-year old Golden Retriever, limping usually means arthritis.   Dogs with cancer will sleep more, but when your dog is eight years old, you are already expecting the dog to begin sleeping more.   While Jeter started “hacking” recently, hacking doesn’t mean your dog automatically has cancer.  There are many diseases and conditions that can cause your dog to hack, and many dogs who are hacking (or coughing) may stop doing it after a short period of time.    My wife was more in tune with Jeter’s condition, and did have a bad feeling that something may be wrong.  I tend to worry a lot about our dogs, yet I did not share that same feeling – I was convinced it was arthritis and his advancing age.
When it comes to this condition, you can’t play a “What if?” game.   For one, early symptoms your dog MIGHT show will not lead you to think that you should have an ultrasound done to check for tumors.   While Jeter showed subtle signs, many dogs won’t.  This cancer is known to cause dogs to suddenly collapse and pass while exerting themselves.  That last game of fetch I played with Jeter could have easily caused such a thing to happen.  There is no blame game to play here – if your dog has it, you aren’t going to be able to stop it.
Your vet will explain your options if the disease is caught early (early means that it has not yet spread into the lungs).  In those cases, surgery may be possible, which could give your dog extra months to live.  That is another dreaded part of this disease:  While we got “lucky” in that the decision was made for us based on what was seen in an X-Ray, in some cases, the decision comes down to a surgery that MIGHT give your dog some extra time or ending the dog’s life because quality of life is not guaranteed.  I brought home a Chinese supplement to aid his internal bleeding, and feel it was worth it, because it may have helped him give us those last few hours.  We’ll never know that, but we do know that it didn’t hurt him.
While the fear of cancer could keep one away from this breed, I would advise against that being a determining factor.  They are great dogs who happen to have this black cloud hanging over them.  While most Golden Retrievers will actually die from some form of cancer, keep this in mind:  Your dog is not a statistic, and most cancers will not present until later on in life.  Josh died of natural causes at 12.5 years.   If he would have died of cancer at 12.5 years, he still would have lived a comfortable, long dog life.
If you have another dog in your house, he or she may take some time to get over the loss of a companion.   Let them heal at their own pace.    They will “get over it”, but if your dogs were bonded (like Jeter and Alanis were), it may be a process.  They have to get through their own special set of emotions.  Alanis is sleeping in Jeter’s old spots, keeps going over to the area where Jeter’s leash hangs, and didn’t take a piece of string cheese I gave her last night.    She is better today, but still isn’t at her normal levels of insanity.
Thanks to everyone who has sent on their well wishes – we appreciate them.  The blog will go on, even if only one dog is here at the moment.  She will talk about her experiences dealing with Jeter in due time.  Thanks for reading, and I hope your 2018 has started off well.

 

 

 

Golden Retrievers Speak: Down & Out

Jeter:  My parents always say that they wish we can talk….

Alanis:  Aren’t we talking through this blog?

Jeter:   I guess that is true, but be quiet.   Last Thursday night, I started to feel ill.  I didn’t throw up or anything like that, but I suddenly went from playful dog to dog that didn’t want to do anything.

Alanis:  It was weird, and I could tell our parents were a bit worried about you.  Jeter went to sleep on Thursday night, and barely wanted to move on Friday……

Jeter:  Yep.  I was just out of it.  I would get up to eat (they were so relieved that I had my usual appetite!), but I didn’t want to do anything else.  I didn’t want to play with Alanis.  I didn’t want to follow mommy everywhere, which is my normal routine.  I just wanted to sleep.

Alanis:   Every chance our parents get, they go on Christmas light tours around New Jersey.  They drive around, looking at houses, for hours on end.  This can be a whole blog post on its own, but the point I am making here is that Jeter slept through the entire tour on Friday night.  Usually, he likes to look out windows, move around the back seat, and just take it all in.  On Friday, he just wanted to sleep.  And sleep.  And sleep.  At one point, I put my head on his head.  Was I sensing that Jeter wasn’t feeling well?  Probably.  We may fight in this blog, but we are still close…

Jeter:    Be quiet with your sappy crap.  Anyway, my Daddy went out on Thursday for the sole purpose of going to the store to get chicken breast to boil.  This has happened before where they have put me on a bland, boring chicken & rice regimen….

Alanis:   You showed them, though!  You refused to eat the rice!

Jeter:  Yeah, they have me on a GRAIN-FREE kibble diet, and yet that moron daddy decides to give me rice as part of my “recovery” meals.   Nice job, Einstein.  I don’t eat grains, so leave that garbage out of my bowl.

Alanis:  Poor Jeter was so hungry…

Jeter:  I kept looking at my bowl for MORE.  I was obviously a hungry dog, with no idea on exactly what they were doing.  Was I being punished?  Did they no longer like me?   What was the point of this exercise?  I felt so sad…

Alanis:  And they kept you on the diet all weekend!

Jeter:  Yep!  Daddy, being the meanie that he is, wouldn’t give the green light for Mommy to start giving me some kibble again 🙁

Alanis:  I was getting kibble!  It was soooooooooo yummy, Jeter…

Jeter:  You are such an idiot.

Alanis:  An idiot that got to eat KIBBLE!

Jeter:  Yeah, whatever.  Go outside and stare at a fence for 30 minutes, like you do every single day.

Alanis:  I will do that with a stomach filled with kibble!

Jeter:  Go away.  I finally got some kibble with my Monday dinner, and it was so yummy.  I am still not back to full kibble meals (Daddy bought enough chicken to feed a family of 8 for a month, never mind one dog trying to get better.  Ugh.  I am never eating chicken again after this exercise)

Alanis:    Yes you will – we are dogs, after all.  Dogs sometimes eat their own poop.  Why would we ever turn down CHICKEN?

Jeter:  True that.  After a few days of being down for the count, I am slowly working my way back to being the excitable pooch I have always been.   I am 8 now, so sometimes my body just won’t let me do the things it was able to do when I was 1.  But I am still a hyper Golden Retriever, and I want to continue playing and being a goofball.

Alanis:   I love all sides of Jeter, but that is my favorite side.

Jeter:  There you go with the sap again.  Sigh.

Me:   I think I have said this so many times that you may be tired of reading it:   Nobody knows your dog better than you do.   Dogs typically don’t have “bad days” because they decide they want to be lazy.  They have bad days because something isn’t feeling right, whether it be an injury, something they ate, or even being sick.  We think Jeter’s issue had to do with something he ate (even though his appetite was still fine, his enthusiasm wasn’t at its normal level), though the leg injury he suffered a few weeks ago may have also flared up.  We will never know.  We gave him nothing but boiled chicken all weekend, and he took one day off from going for a walk.    If he still wasn’t feeling well after the weekend, we would have called the vet.    He has been able to recover though, and we will be increasing his meals back to normal levels over the coming days.

Golden Retrievers Speak: Walk Injury!

Jeter:    As every dog would tell you, I love going for walks and rides.  I realize most dogs are like this, but I take it to another level.  When my family goes on a ride without me, I become upset.  I can anticipate when they are going out, and always assume I am going….

Alanis:  I love walks and rides as well, but not to Jeter’s extreme.    Walks are fun and all, but they require a lot of work for my diva self.  I would rather be home playing with a tennis ball.  As for rides, I love to lay down in the back seat more than anything – looking out windows is so cliche….

Jeter:   Cliche is something you aren’t, girl.   Anyway, during our walk on Tuesday, I came up a bit lame.   Daddy was a good 5 minutes or so away from home, and I am a Golden Retriever, so good luck trying to carry me home.  He simply walked me very slowly towards home.  I was able to put weight on it, but couldn’t support my weight completely, so Daddy’s arm and shoulder had to take on some of the stress..

Alanis:  It was scary!  We were just walking at our usual pace around the usual neighborhood, and he just started limping, seemingly out of nowhere.  I didn’t know if he stepped on an acorn, or legitimately hurt his leg or hip.  Poor Jeter.

Jeter:    After what seemed to be an eternity, I finally was able to walk into the house.  I was hurting pretty badly, though (since I am a dog!), I was trying very hard not to show how badly I was hurting.   Eventually, I just laid down on the floor.

Alanis:   Jeter is many things, but lazy is not one of them!    Jeter is usually very excited after walks – on that day, he just wanted to lay down and not be bothered….

Jeter:   Daddy called the vet, and they were able to get me in on Wednesday afternoon.  Mommy and Daddy would have to find  a way to keep me calm over the next 24 hours.

Alanis:  They discussed taking you to an emergency vet!

Jeter:  Yes, they did – but I definitely wanted nothing to do with that.  Last time I was there, it was because I was having a seizure.  I am good at associating places with good vs. bad….I would have been a wreck going to the emergency vet!

Alanis:  They decided to put up the dreaded gate by the stairs, which of course also limited MY ability get around.   As the resident diva dog, I was not happy with that!

Jeter:  When Mommy had to go upstairs to shower, I sat at the bottom of the stairs, looking up the steps.  I sat (and stood) there for seemingly hours.  I wasn’t going to move from that spot….

Alanis:     It was quite funny for the humans to laugh at us because of our behavior.  Wasn’t funny for us!  We wanted (no, NEEDED!) to get up those stairs.

Jeter:   Daddy eventually went out to the supermarket.  When Mommy had to go upstairs again, I wanted nothing to do with that gate.  After a while, the gate “mysteriously” fell, and I made my way up the stairs!  Yay!

Alanis:  Yay?  You’re INJURED, dog!  What the heck were you thinking about?

Jeter:  I didn’t care – I was not staying downstairs without the human species!

Alanis:  Why are we so attached to that species?   Humans tend to be very weird.

Jeter:   True, that.  But we need them for food and water.

Alanis:  Must be nice to have all that power…

Jeter:  One day, Alanis.  One day…

Jeter:  Any way, as “luck” would have it, after those few hours of limping, I was suddenly OK again.   I didn’t limp again the entire day or night.

Alanis:  Obviously, a ploy so you wouldn’t have to go to the vet.

Jeter:  Of course, but it didn’t work.  Daddy decided I was going to the vet regardless 🙁

Alanis:  I get jumpy when Daddy leaves with Jeter.  I think Jeter is going on some sort of fun adventure!

Jeter:  Fun adventure it is not.  The vet’s office is the only place where I ever cry and whine.

Alanis:   I don’t whine at the vet, but I bark a lot!

Jeter:  In other words, just another day at the office for you.   The vet took me in and gave me a thorough exam, from the basics down to an exam to test my joints.   My behavior changed slightly when she did a particular movement with my leg.  While you can’t really diagnose anything that way, she thinks I may have a little arthritis in my leg or hip….or perhaps have slightly torn a little cartilage or something to that effect.  I had a little injury when I was a puppy, so maybe it is the same injury again?  I don’t know.

Alanis:   He didn’t even X-Rays or anything – at least not yet.   They are taking a more passive approach.

Jeter:   Yep, but unfortunately for me, the passive approach means no walks for at least two weeks.  And I bet Daddy limits my walks for a while even after that time period is up.   Cautious?  No.  Just mean!

Alanis:  He is definitely the mean one, Jeter.  He won’t allow my buddy to go for a walk with me because he is mean.

Jeter:  You can say that, again.  I run to the door when he takes you for a walk, only to realize I can’t go!

Alanis:   The ultimate cruelty!

Jeter:  It is OK, Alanis – I still am playing with you, as there is no way for them to stop me from EVERYTHING I like to do!

Me:  True, that.   Try to force a 60-pound bundle of extreme energy to take a chill for two weeks.  Not easily done, but thankfully for us, Jeter is not the type of dog who typically plays when he is outside.  He likes to take care of business and come into the house, unless I want to play ball with him.   He also isn’t keen on sleeping on beds, which is limiting his jumping.    When situations like this arise with a big dog, you just have to not force them to do things like run, play, fetch, jump, etc.  Anything you can do to curtail the dog’s activity will help them heal, even if they can’t follow the vet’s instructions themselves!   Be patient – don’t take the dog for a walk just because it seems they might be OK now.    A dog is like any animal:   They are not going to show you they are in pain unless there is no other option!   Jeter is doing very well, but may actually still have some pain that he is not showing us.  A wounded animal in the wild either gets eaten or the pack leaves them behind.    Be aware of that, and don’t be fooled into thinking a dog who injured himself yesterday is suddenly fine today because they aren’t limping.   It is a good sign, but it doesn’t mean they are back to full strength yet.

Sudden lameness could mean a physical injury to the area, though it is also possible the dog has an illness.   Don’t take “illness” to automatically mean “terrible illness”, but they may not be feeling well, and it is affecting their ability to walk.   Think about when you get a bad case of the flu:   Is your first instinct to go on a 60-minute walk through the neighborhood?  Thankfully, Jeter is not presenting with other signs of illness (vomiting, reluctance to eat or drink, lack of energy, etc.), so the injury is likely physical.

Just like with humans, getting a dog to the vet as soon as possible is recommended if something seems to be amiss.    The chances for human recovery for any illness get better the quicker you see a physician.  The same goes for a dog:  If your pup strained a ligament, waiting to take him to the vet could lead to worse damage.  As I always say in this blog, YOU KNOW YOUR DOG.  You know what is normal for your dog, and if your pet is suddenly doing things that are abnormal, try to get it figured out as soon as possible.  Your dog may whine and cry, but you will get some piece of mind.

Golden Retrievers Speak: Hematoma!

No matter how many dogs you own or how many situations you find yourself in, you will sometimes find yourself learning something new…..

Jeter:  About a week ago, mommy was playing with my ears, when she noticed a mass on the flap.  It didn’t seem to bother me, but it was noticeable.    At first, my daddy (always looking for benign reasons for everything) thought it might be a clump of hair.   Mommy wasn’t convinced (and of course would be proven correct).    The growth on my ear grew within the next few days, prompting my daddy to start doing some research.   While reading about masses on dog ears, he came across articles on hematomas, though he still was not convinced that this is what I had.  After all, it didn’t seem to be causing me pain.  I didn’t yelp or do anything to tell my parents that there was an injury there that I didn’t want touched.     He was reading stuff that dogs do with hematomas, and the only behavior I exhibited was scratching at my ear.  However, I have done that since I was a baby.  As dogs always say, don’t always go strictly by the textbook.  Go by how much you know us and our behaviors.    If we suddenly don’t want to play when playtime was our favorite time of day, suspect a problem.  However, if we never played much in the first place, it likely wouldn’t even register in your brain.

I was due for my yearly physical by the end of October, but daddy decided at this point that we should move the schedule up to “as soon as possible.”   I got in the day that he called, and after my exam, the doctor determined I had a hematoma on my ear, which is essentially a “solid swelling of clotted blood within the tissues” (yes, I am very good at looking stuff up on dictionary.com)

This probably sounds horrible.  The words “clot” and “blood” in the same sentence are not words anyone wants to read.   However, in this case, the condition isn’t life-threatening serious.  You don’t have to rush your dog to the emergency vet at the discovery of inflammation, but you should try to get them to the vet as soon as your vet can see you.  Hematomas can, and do, grow.    They can burst.   If they do burst in your home, you can have a mess on your hands – never mind a traumatized pet.

The doctor drained my hematoma, and was a bit surprised that there was a lot of fluid in the location, but most of it didn’t seem to be blood.   Could it be a seroma, a similar condition that has fluid that isn’t blood?   It is possible, but it could also just be semantics.

Today, my mommy was playing with my ears again, and noticed that the bump has reappeared, which is a dreaded scenario.  Not dreaded in that it makes my condition any worse.  Dreaded in that it didn’t resolve with just one draining.  I will probably have to go back to the vet to figure out what the next steps are, if anything.  My hematoma is not big, so I think the doctor will continue to watch me closely over recommending a surgery for my ear.  I guess I shall find out.

I am not a fan of the vet (like most dogs).  I shake and cry.  It takes a lot to calm me down, and my chart actually says “Will calm down for treats.”  I am no idiot.  It is possible I have associated the exam room with the crying with the treats.  That doesn’t mean I am actually calm – but is it impossible that I know to put on an instinctive “show” just so I can get some extra cookies?  I will let you humans try to figure that out.

Alanis:   I don’t have much to say here, other than I hope my big brother is OK!  We are always playing, and (like many dogs) we like to go after each other’s ears.  I hope I can’t cause any more damage with that type of play!  And my parents will have a devil of a time trying to keep me calm if Jeter needs any time to rest his injury!   I don’t take “no” for an answer easily, and I am always in play mode around Jeter.

Jeter:  No worries.  I don’t think this is serious, girl!   And never mind keeping you calm if I had an injury – imagine them trying to keep ME calm!  I may be 8 years old, but I want to move!  I want to walk, I want to play.  I have no intentions of slowing down!   Nothing will stop me!

Alanis:  Except for when stuff falls out of the freezer…

Jeter:  Different topic, different time.

Me:   Hematomas are typically not dangerous,  but you will need to get your dog to the vet for treatment.  Hematomas can form slowly and stay small (like Jeter’s), or they can grow tremendously in the space of only a few hours.  What are they caused by?  Typically, they are caused by ear infections, in a bit of an indirect way:  Your dog has an infection, so they shake their head violently, which is what causes the hematoma to eventually form.  They can also be caused by trauma to the ear, and other medical conditions (allergic reactions, etc.)    Your vet should be able to get to the bottom of the underlying condition, but I assume in many cases that the cause can be rather benign.   They are more common in big, floppy eared dogs.   If you often like to scratch around your dog’s ears, feel around their flap every now and again to see if there are any abnormalities.  Sometimes, the hematoma will present itself just by sight.   

Golden Retrievers Speak: Extreme Heat!

Jeter:   Last week was not a fun week for Alanis & myself.    The air in our home wasn’t working, leading to a very uncomfortable environment for us doggies!  It became so warm inside the house that we barely even wanted to play with each other!

Alanis:  Yes, you know the house is uncomfortable when we have no interest in playing.  We tried, and had our moments, but for the most part, we rested a lot.

Jeter:  It was a situation where it was nicer outside than it was inside!   Daddy skipped one day of walking us, but took us for a quick walk during the second day of the mini heat wave.  It actually felt good to get outside of this sauna.

Alanis:   Daddy said they are in the process of replacing the air conditioning system!  That will be nice!

Jeter:  Correct – the lazy man finally was able to find someone to come out to look at the unit.   I will not have peace of mind until everything new is in place, though.    We are almost in June, so another heat wave can come at any time!

Alanis:  Thankfully, we have our long coats……

Jeter:   Isn’t that funny?  People sometimes feel bad for us because of our long coats.  Our coats actually protect us from the heat.    Our coats actually work as insulators, just like inside of a house.   If you don’t have heat in the house on a cold day, the insulation will prevent the house from becoming too unbearable.  The same is true for our coats!   If we are outside on a 5-degree day, certainly we can get cold – however, our coats keep us comfortable.  It is the way nature works – we weren’t originally built with heaters and air conditioners in mind.   We were originally built to stay comfortable regardless of the weather.

Alanis:  Correct!  We should never be shaved during the summer.   That could lead to sunburn and actually make us less comfortable.    Just make sure we have water, and our bodies will take care of the rest.   We also know where the coolest and warmest areas of the house are.  We’ll seek them out and we will find them.  That is just a part of who we are.

Jeter:  This definitely does not mean our bodies can withstand any extreme condition you throw at us.  We can, and WILL, overheat.   If we are left in a hot car, we will overheat, for example.    We pant to stay cool – if the rate of our panting can’t keep up with the temperatures our bodies are feeling, we will overheat.

Alanis:   Is there anything a human can do to help us?  Would throwing us in a pool of ice water help?

Jeter:   We should throw Daddy in a pool of ice water just for the comedy of it all.  It isn’t necessary for us, however.   We sweat through our paws, believe it or not.  If you notice we are overheating, find a way to cool off our paws.  That will help us regulate our body temperature again.

Alanis:   Can we still go for walks on hot days?

Jeter:  Yes!  But we have to rely on our humans to make the correct decision on hot days.  Try not to take us in the middle of a hot day, because – duh – that is when it is hottest.  If you don’t like walking at night, you can take us before the sun goes down.    It isn’t just about the heat hitting our bodies, it is also about walking on hot asphalt if you must walk on some road surfaces.    For the humans:  Put your hand on the asphalt.  If you can’t keep your hand there for long because it is too hot, it is also likely too hot for our paws.

Alanis:   We will still be enthusiastic, because we are dogs!  That is why Daddy has to make the call that is in our best interests!

Jeter:    We all love a good, long walk – but health should always come first.

Alanis:  Correct!  If Daddy passes out, who cares?  We have great noses and will find our way back home.  If we pass out, however, that can be a disaster.  Be careful with us is all we ask.

Jeter:   That was mean, but oh so true – we would find our way back to Mommy.

Alanis:   Thankfully, the temperatures have gone down again and we are once again comfortable and playful.

Jeter:   Daddy went out to buy a couple of fans, and you are afraid of the one in the bedroom!

Alanis:  Yeah, yeah – like you are Mr. Brave all of a sudden!  Pulllleeeeeaaaaasssseeee!

Me:  The dogs summed it all up perfectly.  There isn’t a need to shave a long-haired dog in the summer.  Their hair helps keep them comfortable.    If you run into a situation like the one we had, make sure they have plenty of water.   They may search out comfortable places to lay down.   After we got the fans, Jeter found a perfect spot that was both underneath our ceiling fans AND within range of one of the tower fans we purchased.  As I said, they figure it out.   If you don’t have carpeting, they will also likely lay down more on the colder surfaces of your floor rather than jump on a couch or bed (if you allow for that!)

If you see signs of overheating, cool off their paws immediately.     Call the vet and take them in.   Overheating is just as dangerous for them as it is for us – do not take it for granted that they have “recovered” after you cool them down.   Better be safe than sorry.

The summer months can be a lot of fun for you and your dog – nicer days to play outside, etc.  If you monitor their activity and watch for lethargy, you will be able to enjoy the months ahead without much of a worry.

Golden Retrievers Speak: Damn You, Trebek!

Jeter:   Yes, it happened again.   This time, however, I did not actually have a seizure.   Let me explain:  If you have read this blog before, you know I have a history of seizures – only two in my seven years on Earth, but even one gives you a history!  Both times, the seizure occurred during Final Jeopardy, when the famous music was playing.  After the second incident, my parents made an executive decision to always mute Final Jeopardy.  Even if it is just a coincidence, why take that chance?   I am a very sensitive dog, but I have never had a seizure after a power outage or when going to the vet.  Nothing has “triggered” one other than Final Jeopardy.     Last night, my mommy and daddy were talking to each other as she fast forwarded to Final Jeopardy.  She forgot to mute the TV.    As the song started playing, I let out what may only be described as a “doggie scream” from what seemed to be a deep sleep.   My parents say it is very hard to describe what the sound was, but they immediately paused the show and checked up on me.   It was almost as if I was shouting “Don’t play that song while I am sleeping!!!  EVER!”    It was scary to them – not really to me. I am not even sure I remember doing it.

Alanis:  It was scary.  I think, at first, that Daddy thought one of us may have been growling at the other.  The noise wasn’t a growl, but it was just so strange.  It startled me as well – I think they are relieved that it wasn’t an issue between us two (I love to sleep right next to Jeter – it would make me sad if he suddenly rejected that!)    In any case, I am a dog and I don’t even know what the heck that was, Jeter.   It was strange, but it got the point across.

Jeter:   Thankfully, Jeopardy is the last thing they watch at night.  Mommy got up to go upstairs, and Daddy broke up the situation by calling us into the kitchen for some cheese.  I had my happy face and wagging tail!  This morning, I was as fine as can be.  No problems – as if nothing happened.

Alanis:  I can vouch for that, as Jeter humped me a few times and went for a nice, long walk on what is promising to be the last nice day for a little while.

Me:   I don’t even know what to say.  There is something about the Final Jeopardy theme song that sends Jeter over the edge.   As a puppy, he was always “fascinated” by the Final Jeopardy song.  He would stop in his tracks and stare at the TV as it was going on, with his ears perked up.   At the time, it was cute and funny – was it actually him having some sort of “focal” seizure event that we just weren’t catching on to?  I don’t think so, but it isn’t impossible, I guess.   Whatever it is, that tune is BANNED from this household and Final Jeopardy has to stay on mute.      No other part of the show bothers him at all, so that is a good thing, since we love the show.       This just goes to show you how complex seizures and dog behavior in general can be.   Hard to really figure out WHY this happens to Jeter – but it does.   We just have to stay vigilant and keep him away from anything that could cause his brain to go a little haywire.

 

Golden Retrievers Speak: Hot Spots!

Jeter:  I am so thankful that I was blessed with such a nice coat and good skin.  Golden Retrievers are known for their “hot spots” (Josh would get at least one every year, if not more), but I have never had one (knock on wood).  I would try to lick Josh’s though, from time to time, and recently licked one that Alanis developed by her shoulder.

Alanis:   Yes, hot spots are uncomfortable – this is my first one, and hopefully my last one.  My family had treatments left over from when Josh would get them, so thankfully they have been treating it.  They are so uncomfortable.   My parents probably like the fact that this spot is in a place where it is very hard for me to lick at, but there are times I wish I could just go to town and rip my hair out, like Josh used to do!

Me:  Neither Jeter nor Alanis were here when Josh developed his nastiest hot spot (in my opinion).  Colleen and I went to a christening, and when we came home, Josh had pretty much ripped out a lot of his hair on one of his sides.  Suffice to say, he went straight to the vet and probably had to wear the “cone of shame”.

Jeter:  Don’t interupt us when we are talking, you fool.   I do like to lick wounds.  I find them very quickly on other dogs (and people!) and lick, lick, lick.  It is mostly an old dog’s tale that our tongues have some sort of miraculous healing powers, but what do I care?  I just like doing it.

Alanis:   There are many things that can cause hot spots – believe it or not, Josh’s hip condition may have been a reason why his hot spots would show up on his side (licking near the area of the hip pain).   He also had allergic reactions to food (mommy and daddy think it was white rice).    They are not dangerous or life-threatening, but they should be treated.  They are very uncomfortable for us, and since logic is not what dogs specialize in, we will continue to lick and bite at them.

Jeter:    That is exactly what Josh would do – and before you knew it, a little red spot on his skin would become this big wound that needed treatment.

Me:  Yep, and that treatment typically included the need to cut his hair around his wound, which I am sure caused even more discomfort.  We didn’t have to do that with Alanis’ first ever hot spot.   We don’t even know what caused the hot spot, and hopefully they don’t become a regular thing with her.  They can be a royal pain to deal with.   If your dog is prone to hot spots, you may want to do what humans are often told to do:  Keep a journal in an effort to figure out why the hot spots are occurring.  Are they due to a specific food?  Is there perhaps something in the environment?   Are they not getting enough exercise? (A bored dog will sometimes create the hot spots because they lick out of boredom).   It could be a lot of trial and error.    Josh’s problems with hot spots never went away, though they were controlled.   It is recommended you take your dog to the vet, especially if the hot spot has reached a point where the dog has exposed his skin.   

 

Golden Retrievers Speak: Pills and Thrills

Josh:   Well, there certainly isn’t any thrill in taking pills.  Given my condition, I am on a pretty heavy cocktail of medication to keep me feeling comfortable.  Arthritis is not fun, folks.

Jeter:     I am only on the basics.   I take a heartworm preventative monthly.  We also get flea and tick treatments in the form of a pill.

Alanis:  I take the same cocktail Jeter does.   The funny thing is that all three of us take the heartworm medication as if it is candy.   Little do we know that the medication is essential to keep us healthy.  If we understood that, we could certainly force them to use treats to get the pills into our bodies.

Josh:  I don’t like my pain medication at all.   Mommy buries it in a big hunk of biscuit, and I still find a way to spit them out.   I am quite clever (and stubborn) in my old age.  As daddy likes to say, I have lost my mobility, but I have not lost my brain.    I am still quite aware of my surroundings and can outsmart any of you young whipper snappers!

Jeter:   Luckily for me, I have never needed to take medication for my seizures.   I hear it can change the personality of the dog, and everyone knows my personality is perfect as is.

Alanis:  Your personality is one every dog should strive for.   Thankfully, I haven’t needed any kind of medication yet, beyond the essentials.    I have yet to wear the “cone of shame” since I came here.  I am hoping I can avoid it for as long as possible.

Jeter:  The cone is a pain in the ass, no doubt.   Josh has to wear it more often than most dogs, but he is such a trooper.  The few times I have worn one, I have hated it with a passion.

Josh:  It’s fine.  I sleep so often that the cone is meaningless.

Alanis:   Why is the title of this post “Pills and Thrills, anyway?”

Jeter:  Daddy probably wanted to come up with something catchy – listen, doggies, and listen carefully:  THERE IS NOTHING THRILLING ABOUT PILLS! NOTHING.   Avoid them at all costs, and spit them out so that you can at least force your owners to give you more treats!

Josh:  It is also very important for pet owners to understand that human medications may not be suitable for us.   Don’t just assume that because you can knock out your back pain with an Aleve that it will also work for us.  That is not true.   Talk to your doctor about any human medications that may be safe for us to use.   I would take it even further than that – research it.  Even if a doctor says it is OK, you still may want to read up about any potential problems other dogs have had.

Me:    I doubt you will find an owner who will say that giving dogs medication is fun and easy.  My dogs do seem to love their heartworm medication (Interceptor), for whatever that reason may be.   This medication is essential for your dog.  When I was growing up, I had a dog who had issues with heartworm, and it was not a pleasant experience – especially for the dog.  You may read some people who may not give this medication – that is essentially playing Russian Roulette with your animal.   It is possible they will avoid worms – but if they don’t, expect some potentially serious consequences.   Fleas have been an issue with my dogs through the years, so preventive measures are not always 100% – though that is true for most any medication, canine or human.  Fleas can be a major problem for your dog’s health and your home.   They reproduce rapidly, and you can have an infestation in no time.    Keeping your dog up to date on their medications will not only help them long term, but it will also help you and your environment.     Heartworm has been found in dogs in all 50 states, though there are areas within certain states where it won’t be as widespread.  As always, consult with your vet and make sure your dog is tested for heartworm as well as using the preventative.   It is a dangerous disease, but also one that is relatively easy to prevent.

Golden Retrievers Speak: Seizures

Since Josh and Alanis have never experienced a seizure, I am turning this blog post over to Jeter, who has experienced two.

Jeter:    The night was going innocently enough.  I was curled in a ball on the couch with my Mommy petting me as they were watching Jeopardy.  This house is a night owl house, so the time was after 3:00AM on a Saturday morning.      Before I continue on, let me flash back to my puppy days.  When I was a puppy, I used to love to play with my food dish.  I would push it around, tap at it, etc.  It was a fun way for me to pass the time!   One night (early morning!), I hit the bowl so hard that it tipped over, sending me in a tailspin.   I started running around the house like a lunatic (my parents thought it was just a case of the “zooomies” – but it was far more than that!   I eventually ran downstairs, went under the couch, and refused to come out.   I was so terrified for hours that they called the emergency vet and I was kept overnight for observation.   The first diagnosis was “focal” seizures – which aren’t all-out seizures, but are still scary and often lead to full seizures.  From that fateful night forward, I was always afraid of noises, and to this day, I can spook my parents by randomly looking at the ceiling.  I guess I just like to mess with them!   Anyway, to get back to my seizure episode, it was during Final Jeopardy, as the theme song was playing, that I went into an all-out seizure.  My parents had no idea what was going on, and my daddy (unfortunately for him) got way too close to me during my episode.  When I broke out of it, I was so terrified that I guess I went into “primitive animal” mode and started lashing out at my daddy, who I know was only trying to help.   Suffice to say, I nearly broke his thumb with my teeth (the blood squirting around the house, which he thought was MINE at first, ended up being his!) and started growling and hissing.   Given my normal sweet temperament, it was obvious this was not normal behavior.  I eventually ran into a dark room as my parents frantically tried to call the Emergency vet.    This time, it was no doubt that I was having a grand mal seizure.    I eventually did calm down, though I was whining uncontrollably, as my parents took me into the vet.  The vet ran some basic tests and came to a preliminary conclusion that my episode was idiopathic, with no obvious cause behind it.     They offered my parents medication, but I am glad they said “No”, as it was only my first seizure.   They did send us home with some shots that can be used if I have a seizure that lasts for several minutes.    I slowly started to regain my personality through the night, though my mommy wanted to make sure my daddy was with us .    It was a very nerve-wrecking night.

My second seizure came months later – again at around 3:00AM during Final Jeopardy!   This time, my parents were more ready.  My daddy stayed a safe distance from me but talked to me in soft, gentle tones.   He had my mommy shut off all lights and the television.    Alanis was placed outside to further reduce the noise, as she started barking hysterically when she saw me shaking.   I broke out of it quickly this time, and was much calmer when I did come out of it.  I was a bit disoriented, but I allowed my family to come near me without any growling or aggressive behavior.  I think their calmness helped me this time – last time, they were so frantic, and I picked up on that.

That seizure was now a few years ago, and I haven’t had one since.  My mommy and daddy still watch Jeopardy…but they mute the Final Jeopardy theme song, as that was the common theme between the two seizures (Interestingly, I was enthralled by that theme song dating back to when I was a puppy – is there a connection?  Only my brain knows).   Since I have two seizures in my history, I am always at risk – but I am not on medication and I am living a normal doggie life without restriction!  Well, I guess I can’t say that – after all, if there weren’t any restrictions, I would eat 24/7 and still not be full!

Josh:   These incidents were scary, but I was my usual calm, mostly oblivious, self.  I just laid down quietly in one of my usual spots….

Alanis:   Seizures scare the shit out of me, and I was so concerned for my brother that I was going crazy with my barking.  My parents had to put me outside.   It wasn’t fun seeing my playmate in distress.

If your dog has a seizure, the number one rule for you is to NOT PANIC!  Panic can actually make the situation worse.   Stay calm.  Let the dog get through the episode.   If you can, time the episode as the doctor will likely ask you about how long it lasted.   If your dog is seizing, you have to protect the dog while not getting too close.  Move any objects that can potentially hurt the dog – if that means pushing away a coffee table, do it!  If the dog is on a bed or couch, just be ready to rush in and break a fall.  Shut down the lights and the television.   Do not go near your dog until it is safe to do so (obviously, if there is an emergency, you may have to get close – juts be careful if you do!).   Your dog may come out of it disoriented – this is not alarming, but just make sure the dog doesn’t hurt himself.   Some dogs break out of a seizure quickly – some dogs take a while to regain their personalities.   Just be patient.   Try to avoid medications unless your dog is having clusters of seizures that are close in time frame.   Even in that case, there is a chance your dog will break out of it.  My dog trainer told me the story of a dog who had multiple seizures in the span of a short period – but never had another one.    This can be frightening, but most dogs can live normal, happy lives even if the seizures are a lifetime problem.