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: 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: Guard Duty!

Jeter:   We are considered such a lovable breed that most would probably say that we do not make great guard dogs. While it is true that we will not intimidate most with the size of our bite, we have different ways of making sure you stay far away.

Alanis:  It starts with our bark!   We don’t really mean to startle our humans with our 3:30AM barking at the air, but when we do that, we sense something – it may be nothing more than a random noise we hear outside.  It could be people walking by that we think are simply too close for comfort.

Jeter:  Josh was the master of the late night bark – he would just run to the window and start barking.  He had that very deep, “big dog” bark.  I swear if people just heard the bark without seeing the dog, they would have thought Cujo may be on the other side of the door!

Alanis:   I bark often, and it can be a bit jarring.  I am a bit like Josh in that I will start barking instantly if I hear someone outside.  We live close to a convenience store, so people can walk by at all hours of the day.  I have started to become very aware of their presence.

Jeter:   When daddy isn’t home, my alertness goes up even more.   Mommy has commented many times about how aware I am of EVERYTHING when daddy isn’t home.   Of course, I am a better protector than that klutz would ever be, anyway.  He would probably fall down the stairs if he ran down them to check for an intruder.

Alanis:   Bahahahaha!    They need dogs, because that moron can’t even walk two steps without falling sometimes.

Jeter:   My bark is obnoxious, but I can’t sustain it.  I can let out a quick bark or two, but that is it.  Josh used to sustain it for several minutes, and Alanis has that ability as well.   Of course, given how jarring my bark is, it is probably a good thing I cannot sustain it for long.

Alanis:  Look, we will FREELY admit that if your goal is to find a guard dog that perhaps our breed is not perfect for that purpose.   We may use our bark to keep people away, but we are just big softies in the end.  That said, you can read online about many stories where humans were protected by their Golden Retrievers.  Remember this fact:  We are playful and fun, but are also fiercely loyal.

Jeter:  Yep!   I even warned a few family members at Christmas to not get too close to my Mommy.   Don’t tempt fate with us, because we can surprise you!

Me:   Golden Retrievers will never rank high on the list of dogs one would adopt for protection purposes.   However, they are loyal companion dogs and are not likely to easily allow strangers access to those who provide them their food.   Josh had a bark that would make any stranger run away.  Jeter is sweet, but also has a bit of a feisty side to him.   Alanis is the type of dog that will bark if she senses any kind of movement outside the house.     I certainly wouldn’t tempt fate as a stranger, while also recognizing that our dogs are more likely to wag their tails for a belly rub when push comes to shove. 

Golden Retrievers Speak: Welcome Home!

Jeter:  Well, this blog post will probably be short and sweet.  Josh “came home” on Tuesday (Valentine’s Day!).   I had to sniff the wooden box his ashes came in, because that is what I do.   Mommy put the box on a table, and draped it with Josh’s favorite toy.    Surprisingly enough, even though she COULD grab it if she wanted to, Alanis has stayed away from the toy.

Alanis:  The temptation is there, trust me!  But, for some reason, dogs that have entered this house have always known what is theirs and what isn’t when it comes to toys – Mommy has a big display of stuffed animals in multiple areas of the house, and we never touch them!

Jeter:  I heard a story about how mommy once bought a Halloween blanket, all rolled up.   She put it down on the couch, and Josh walked by and took it!

Alanis:  Now, that is something I might do!

Jeter:   It is still sad that Josh is no longer here – his “cone of shame” is actually in the exercise room, and I sniff it every time I go in there.

Alanis:  What I find amazing about you Jeter is that you NEVER touched the bowl that Josh drank out of.  Me?  I don’t care – I drink out of whatever bowl is available.  But you always stayed away from that bowl…..

Jeter:  Until this week, right?   All of a sudden, a bowl I indeed never drank out of has become probably my favorite bowl.  I think I am finally realizing that “physical” Josh isn’t coming back – I can still smell him on certain things, but I probably no longer feel his alpha presence.  He never yelled at me for drinking out of “his” bowl, but indeed, out of some sort of respect, I never did until this week.

Alanis:   We are such interesting creatures – those humans will never figure us out completely!  And thank goodness for that…..

Me:    There was a bit of “finality” when Josh’s ashes were delivered on Tuesday.  Finality in that everything has now gone full circle and he is back home with us forever.    His physical presence is missed – Colleen and I even talked today about how Josh always made his presence known.  When he entered a room, he didn’t just nudge the door open – he slammed through it.  When he wanted to come in from outside, he didn’t just sit by the door like Jeter does – he barked and jumped until we let him in.   He truly was a dog who had a presence about him – a confidence you just don’t see in many dogs.     Josh will always be a huge part of this blog, wherever it may lead.  But the new normal has certainly set in for all of us, including the dogs.

Golden Retrievers Speak: New Members of the Pack?

 

Jeter:    It has been over a week since Josh passed away, and this may be a good time to talk about adding new members to an existing pack.

Alanis:   Humans sometimes will try to fill the void of losing a pet by immediately going out and getting a new pet.   There are reasons why this may not be the smart move.

Jeter:   Correct.  Looking at it from our perspective, humans need to realize that not only did we just lose a pack member – we lost the dog we thought was leading our pack.   Our dynamics are in a bit of chaos (though, to be honest, Alanis and I are handling pack alignment just fine – we are just a bit out of whack).

Alanis:    Being out of whack is natural for a pair of dogs that lost the alpha.    The problem with bringing a new dog into our structure is simple:   Although we are both friendly towards other dogs (even with Jeter sometimes being a tad snippy….)

Jeter:  Oh, stop with that – I just need a few minutes to get used to a dog and I hate it when dogs invade my space initially.  THAT IS WHY I SNAPPED AT YOU, GIRL!   The moment we met, you decided it would be a good idea to get right in my face!   Made me nervous –  I didn’t know your intentions.

Alanis:    Yeah, I know – I can’t help it.  I try to make my presence known everywhere I am.    But this is why adding a new dog to a pack that just lost a dog can be a bit tricky.

Jeter:   Especially if you do it too soon.   We are still trying to process the loss of Josh.   Imagine if humans bring a new dog into our lives that has more of an alpha tendency?   We may not be happy with that.

Alanis:  And if you bring in a dog that is a bit more submissive, we may not take kindly to that either – we may gang up on the poor dog.   This has nothing to really do with our temperament.      We are animals that need structure.  If that structure is thrown into any kind of chaos when we aren’t ready, it can lead us to being confused as we mourn the loss of our friend.

Jeter:    We understand that humans love us very much and want to help another dog, potentially.   Be patient with it – let us get through this trying time for everybody.   Eventually, we will get back on track and more accepting of a new member in our pack.

Me:   My wife and I have not even discussed a new dog yet.    This is not likely in our near future.      It may be a little easier to bring in a new dog if you are a one-dog household, but even then, you have to make sure you are emotionally ready to do so.  Some “experts” suggest not getting a dog that looks like the dog you lost.  I am not sure I agree with that, but everyone is different.   As we know with our Goldens, they are all unique in their own ways (in terms of look and personality) – getting another Golden wouldn’t lead us to compare the new dog to Josh.    We wouldn’t try to fit him into the Josh mold.    Regardless, this is always a decision to take very seriously, and you should indeed think about the other dogs in your household before you take the plunge.   They are missing their pack mate, and if they aren’t ready for a new member, it can lead to some resentment.    As is the case with most things when it comes to dogs, you will know when the time is right.  

Here is a good article on the entire process of grief, and how dogs may handle it.

 

Golden Retrievers Speak: Super Bowl Picks!

Josh:  I’ve had a rough few days, but I am going to still give my analysis of this game.

Jeter:  I love the Super Bowl!   There are always plenty of dog commercials to choose from!

Alanis:  I love it when a Golden Retriever scores!

Josh:  That’s the Puppy Bowl, jackass.

Alanis:  Oh.

Jeter:   The Puppy Bowl is fun to watch, too.  Who is playing in the Super Bowl this year?   Are the Golden Retrievers in it?

Me:  There doesn’t exist a team in any professional sport called the Golden Retrievers.

Josh:  Well, there should be – Patriots?  Falcons?  What kind of names are those?

Jeter:   I don’t like the Patriots.

Alanis:  Nobody does.  I think even Patriots fans are getting tired of them.

Josh:    OK, what are our predictions?  I need to get back to sleep – I haven’t been feeling well 🙁

Jeter:  Sorry, Josh – we can tell when your days are rough.  I am going with Falcons 34, Patriots 28!

Alanis:   That’s a lot of touchdowns!

Jeter:   You get six points for every touchdown, girl.

Alanis:  Oh.

Josh:  Enough of your bickering.  I am going with Falcons 27, Patriots 21.

Alanis:   If touchdowns are worth six points each, why aren’t any of your scores multiples of six?

Jeter:  Ummmm…oh, never mind.

Alanis:  Well, it’s dumb.  So I am going with the only thing that makes sense.  Multiples of six!   Falcons 30, Patriots 18

Josh:  That score is almost impossible, but whatever – you can have your fun.  I am back to bed.

Jeter:   Hope you feel better Josh.   I hope everyone enjoys Super Bowl Sunday!

Me:  The only tip I can give today is to watch those snacks!  Dogs are sneaky, sneaky!  Leave some chips in a spot where they can reach them and you will end up sometimes with zero chips.  To emphasize this point, Jeter and Alanis are very well-trained not to touch anything.  Tonight, Colleen left a biscuit in the bedroom and went into another room.  When she returned, no more biscuit!  So just be aware that Goldie may try their own little sneak attack.  Enjoy the game!  

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: To Crate Or Not to Crate

Josh:    I was brought into this house the day before my mommy needed to finish up all of her Christmas shopping.  Suffice to say, I was going to be home for hours by myself.   My parents had not yet purchased a crate (they did it that day), so I was given access to most of the house on my first full day of living here.  This could have been a disaster, as I am a Golden Retriever and we can get quite bored very quickly.    Thankfully (for them), I didn’t get into any mischief at all. Nothing was broken, nothing was eaten, and I didn’t have any accidents.

Jeter:   That is quite amazing!   When I first came home, they had a crate all ready for me – I was going to be a crate trained dog.   I would spend many nights inside my crate, and I was enthusiastic about going in it to go to sleep at night.  It became a part of my routine….

Josh:   They never did get around to actually crate training me.   To be exact, daddy took the crate out of the box and placed it on the floor.   The next morning, I proceeded to pee all over it.     I guess that was the end of that experiment.   They were very lucky with me.    I wasn’t a destructive dog when I was bored – at least not INSIDE the house.

Jeter:     You will likely forever be the only dog they have that was never crate trained….

Alanis:  I came to this house crate-trained.      Daddy made the big mistake, however, of going food shopping without putting me in my crate.  I chewed a big hole in their drywall and ripped apart couch cushions.    He learned quickly that I needed to be in my crate for the sake of the house and for my safety.  Nowadays, I don’t go in the crate every time they are out, unless they are going to be out for a while.   I do love my crate, though…

Jeter:  Your crate is one of those closed-in crates.  I have one of those metal, open crates.    I no longer go in my crate, but I liked not being closed in.

Alanis:  I like being closed in.   It gives me the feeling of being in a nice, safe cave.   Just like my ancestors.

Josh:  You two are crazy!    I have always had FREEDOM!  Do you two not get it?   What fun is there in going inside of an enclosed structure with no place to go?

Jeter:  But what is the difference, old man?   All we do is sleep when they are away, anyway.

Alanis:   Yeah, I am no longer destructive – we just all find our own little spots and go to sleep.  Well, except for Jeter – he doesn’t like it when there aren’t people around him.   Needy Middle Child Syndrome.

Jeter:  I’m needy?  That’s a laugh.  Which dog is the dog that has to BARK every single time she needs attention?  Every single time we are fed?  Every single time she wants to come into the house?   Every single time she sees a person or a dog when we go for a walk?    There is a reason why you are the diva of this group – and it isn’t just because you are a girl.

Alanis:  WOOF!

Josh:  OK, enough of this.   You two have freely accepted being locked in a cage, while I told them on Day 1 that I was having none of it.

Jeter & Alanis: at the same time:   But, I kind of like it……..

Me:   First of all, yes – that is Jeter in the picture above, “waving” at Josh. Anyway, I strongly recommend crate training your dog.   Dogs love having a safe haven where they can go when they are scared.   People like having the piece of mind that their house won’t get destroyed if they are gone for hours.     If you transport your dog around the country, having them in a crate in your van can keep them (and you!) safe.    Crates are also essential in housebreaking, as dogs have an instinct to not soil where they sleep.  Hence, they are likely to learn more bladder control.     DO NOT USE A CRATE AS PUNISHMENT!  One sure-fire way to make sure your dog will come to despise their crates is if you throw them in there against their will because you think the dog did something bad.  Crates need to be a safe haven and a fun place for them to want to go.   More information can be found here.  

Golden Retrievers Speak: Off to the Vet!

Josh:  Oh, the dreaded yearly checkup at the vet.    When I was younger, I was the best dog in the world at the vet.  I was calm.  I would let the vet do whatever they wanted to me with a smile on my face.   Nothing bothered me.  Sure, I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.  Sure, I would jump on my daddy when I got nervous.   Overall, however, it never did quite bother me much.  It was just a major inconvenience.

Jeter:   If only I was like Josh!  The vet terrifies me.  Not the doctor herself – just the entire idea of going to the vet.  I get panicky.  I am not a vocal dog at all – I rarely bark and I rarely cry.  If I get accidentally closed into a room, I don’t cry to come out – I just sit by the door and wait for someone to get me.   When I bark, I can’t even sustain it like most dogs –  I let out a few before stopping.   However, when I go to the vet, I do cry.  I jump on my daddy, and I want nothing to do with going into one of the dreaded rooms….

Alanis:  I know you are all going to call me strange, but I am used to that by now.   It isn’t that I actually love the vet, but I sure do act that way.  I look at it as I look at everything in the world:   A play session!  I try to go behind the receptionist desk to play with the people back there.  I try to play with the vet techs.   I bark like a lunatic, like I always do when I am actually excited.  I don’t push or pull to leave – I walk into the dreaded office as if it is a playroom.

Jeter:  You are one strange dog – I can’t even.    The worst thing about going to the vet is that someone, a LONG time ago, put the dreaded “WILL BITE!” sticker in my chart.   My daddy swears I have never bitten a soul at the vet.  The indicator was put in there a long time ago – the entire staff has changed since then – but we have no idea how or why it got there or how I got the stigma.  There is no doubt that I hate it there and that I need to be held for when they take my temperature or draw blood.    But BITE?   Never.

Josh:   That is strange, indeed.    Probably my funniest story (which wasn’t funny at the time!) is when there was a grooming accident at home – my owners accidentally cut me as they were grooming me.   As the story goes, I had blood on my fur but pretty much didn’t complain one bit.  I didn’t yelp or “shout” in pain.  I didn’t cry.  I acted as if nothing at all happened to me.   My parents didn’t call the emergency room that night, but they did take me in the next day.  I needed to go into surgery to get some stitches on the wound.  Daddy didn’t tell my mommy that I needed to go under for the stitches – didn’t want to panic her.  I came out of it all just fine……..

Jeter:  That indeed was a scary story that became just another tidbit about Josh – the happy-go-lucky dog that never complains.

Alanis:   I don’t really have any funny vet stories just yet…..

Jeter:   I don’t really have one either – other than the gross stuff.  When I was younger,  I was unable to “express” myself when I pooped.  I was prone to scooting because of this.  Daddy had to bring me to the vet fairly often so that they could work on those anal glands!   I guess somewhere along the way, my body started to do it since I never have to go to the vet for that purpose anymore.

Josh:   How about the leg injury?

Jeter:  Well, yeah – when I was really young, I was playing ball with my daddy.  I started limping badly on one of my legs, so he rushed me to the vet.    By the time the doctor saw me in the office, I was no longer limping!    I was acting as if there was nothing wrong with me at all.  The doctor decided not to do any kind of x-ray because I was acting fairly normal.   It is possible I simply strained a ligament………

Alanis:  You two are full of stories!   Maybe one day, I too will have a good vet story!

Me:   Boring is good in this case, Alanis!    Just like kids will be kids, dogs will be dogs.  They will injure themselves.  They will have days where they simply don’t want to eat for reasons you are not likely to figure out (especially if it is a benign reason!).   They will have days where they don’t want to play or be active.    When you own a dog, observe them closely.   Even dogs who are of the same breed will have unique characteristics about them.    Something that may raise an alarm bell about one dog may be more common for another.  A perfect example in our house:  Jeter has always been an active dog.  So when he is lethargic, we know something is wrong.    However, even in his younger days, Josh had a tendency to be a calmer Golden Retriever.  A day of Josh not wanting to play was not really concerning.     I have said this a few times in this blog:  KNOW YOUR DOG.   Don’t panic at every little thing that is out of the ordinary, but also don’t gloss over an obvious change in behavior.    As for shots, talk to your vet about how you want to go about keeping your dog protected from disease.  Rabies will always be mandatory, though in recent years, they have developed a 3-year shot for that disease.   Other shots are also now going the 3-year route.   A good vet is not going to force vaccinations down your throat.  A good vet will work with you to offer the best care for your dog.  Studies on vaccines are always being conducted.  Do your research and make the best possible decisions you can.   You may also want to look into titer testing, a test that is designed to see if your dog is still immune to the diseases a vaccine is trying to guard against.  (Full disclosure:  I have never done any titer testing for my dogs, but have considered it).    Obviously, i am completely in favor of taking your dog to the vet at least once a  year just to get the basic wellness.  Just like with humans, that one trip to the doctor can save their lives if something underlying is going on within their bodies.

 

 

Golden Retrievers Speak: It’s Snowing!

Josh:   When I was younger, I loved the snow.   Whenever it would snow, I would run around outside like a goofball, prancing over any snowbanks in the yard.  I also had this tendency to roll around in it, to get myself nice and wet – after all, I didn’t have to clean myself when I was done!  That was for my parents to do.   As I got older, I would still roll around in it, though I was no longer the goofball I once was.

Jeter:   Only a few months or so after I moved in here, we had a blizzard.  It was crazy.   Daddy had to put Josh and myself out on that crazy night, and went into panic mode when Josh essentially lead me to a blind spot in the yard where we couldn’t be seen.   I am not sure how we got back into the house (I am sure Josh simply lead the way for me to follow), but what was fun for us certainly was not fun for daddy.   That also was the first night where I was allowed to stay out of my crate all night long.   It wasn’t the last time I was able to do that, but it was nice to spend the cold, wintry night with my family.  Daddy didn’t let us back out until the next day though.

Alanis:  The big snowstorms they are talking about are storms I have not yet really experienced here.  I understand that down the Jersey Shore, we can get hit with some monster storms due to all of the moisture coming off of the ocean – but they are quite rare, as many such storms turn into rain events if they form at all.   Today, I experienced a nice 8″ storm though, and I was having a blast.  My mommy commented that she got a bit nostalgic for Josh, because I was acting like Josh used to act in the snow – running around like a crazed lunatic without any cares in the world.   Maybe someday I will experience a big blizzard, but this storm was perfect for me….

Jeter:  She really was crazy today.  While she was doing that, I was actually laying down in a big pile of snow on the deck – with the junco birds, who weren’t all that scared that I was laying there (until I moved, of course!)

Josh:  I just watched from inside the house – no real motivation for the snow.  Nice and toasty inside the house, where I can eat, drink, and just sleep.   That is the most important thing in my life nowadays – sleep.

Alanis:  I wish I was around when Josh was crazy in the snow.  We could have had so much fun!

Josh:   I think fences would have been broken.

Jeter:  I was never like that in the snow – I do like to eat the snow and dig through it, though.  Especially if I know there is a tennis ball beneath it all.  I also will pull out sticks and chew on them.   Interestingly, I never do this when there are sticks randomly laying around the yard.  I only do it when there is snow!

Alanis:  Daddy didn’t play ball with us in the snow today.  Lazy daddy!

Jeter:  He claims he is still getting over an illness and didn’t want to expose himself to the conditions….

Alanis:  Yeah, right.  He just didn’t want to be bothered.  But we made our own fun.  We were out there for at least a half an hour on two different occasions today……

Jeter:   I am exhausted from it all, to be honest – I am going to go take a nap now so that we can play at 1 in the morning and drive them crazy as they are watching the Dummy Box!

Alanis:  My favorite part of the day……..

Me:   Dogs seem to LOVE snow, and it certainly can make things easier for owners who are looking for ways to exercise their dogs.   They pretty much take care of it all themselves by rolling around in it, running through it, etc.  I am getting over a cold, but in the past, I have been able to keep them occupied simply by throwing a tennis ball in a snowbank.  They would dig through the snow, trying to find it.    Just like with children, dogs consider a “snow day” a fun treat, and there really aren’t many precautions to take.  Obviously, you want to make sure they don’t overdo it, and watch for any signs that they are getting lethargic or feeling too cold to stay out there.   Dogs like Golden Retrievers are built for these elements, though – and you really shouldn’t have to worry about much of anything, other than an injury as they run around.   Enjoy days like these with your pups – they don’t get too many of them in their lifetimes, unless you live in Alaska.    The days will give you memories that can last a lifetime, just like the memories we had today of Josh back when he would run in the snow like Alanis did today.