Archive for February, 2010

8 Dogs and Counting

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

We never planned on having 8 dogs. Wait, I never planned on having 8 dogs. Actually, I doubt that John ever had that as a lifelong goal either since deciding in the morning what he wants for supper constitutes long range planning in his world. I can’t even pinpoint when the dog population started spinning out of control. All I know for sure is that we have 8 dogs, and we will never have 9. I’m putting my foot down!

I had a poodle when we got married, so we’ve always had dogs, but we usually had 1 or 2, never more than 3 at any one time. The oldest dog in the pack we have now is Champ, our 13 year old Yorkshire terrier. He’s also the one that John will not accept responsibility for acquiring, even though he bought him as my Christmas present in 1996. Champ must have been a cat in a previous life because he has cheated death on several occasions including a serious attack by a dog that outweighed him by 50 pounds, 2 hospitalizations with pancreatitis, and back surgery to remove a ruptured disk. If he were a car, I probably could have had him replaced under our state “Lemon Law,” but he is my baby now that all the kids are grown.

Sis, the 12 year old German wire-haired pointer, is one of 2 puppies we kept from a litter we raised. Keeping the 2 puppies pushed us over the previously mentioned 3 dog limit, but John rationalized having 4 dogs by convincing me the older hunting dog he had was 8 years old and probably wouldn’t be around much longer. That sounded somewhat logical, and since we were planning to move to a place in the country, it didn’t seem like an unreasonable request. I was on a slippery slope and didn’t realize it.

After a couple of years with the 4 dogs, Seth (the only one of the 3 kids still at home) and John were visiting some friends who had a litter of rat terrier puppies. The owner of the puppies decided that Seth needed a dog of his own, or more accurately he saw an opportunity to find a home for one of the puppies. That’s how Susie became dog #5.

Nature eventually took its course and John’s beloved hunting dog, Garth, died from an abdominal aneurysm, but our numbers didn’t stay down for long. In a moment of weakness, I agreed that raising a litter of puppies out of Susie seemed like the thing to do. After an emergency C-section by our awesome team of veterinarians, Scott and Debra Randolph, they were able to save Susie and 3 of the 6 puppies. After finding homes for 2 of the puppies, we added Tuffy to the group as the new dog #5.

When Sis’ littermate, Spot, died, John was convinced that her demise was also imminent, so he started looking for a replacement as he couldn’t endure a single hunting season without a bird dog. After quite a bit of web searching, he chose one of Jill Manring’s Deutsch Drahthaars as the breed of choice, and Jack became the new dog #5.

Many people might think that 5 dogs would be too many, but that number seemed to work as we had 2 large hunting dogs (Sis and Jack), 2 small outside dogs for varmint control (Susie and Tuffy), and Champ whose sole purpose in life had become keeping our savings account from growing above the limit insured by the FDIC. I look back fondly on these BCH years (Before Coon Hunting).

I don’t know how John developed an interest in hunting raccoons. He had gone a few times with a neighbor many years ago, but it didn’t seem to pique his interest. He was a hard core upland bird hunter for many years who developed an interest in waterfowl hunting or an obsession with decoys or both, but coon hunting never seemed to be his thing. At any rate, he started talking about getting a coon dog, and he is nothing if not persistent. However, I am just as determined and kept telling him that we absolutely could not get another dog. I was putting my foot down. That’s how Penny became dog #6, and our first pet with a disability. It didn’t take long to discover she was deaf. Unfortunately, a deaf dog is at a distinct disadvantage when navigating traffic, so we lost her after only 18 months.

I tried to convince John this was a sign, but he immediately started negotiating with Penny’s former owner to acquire Penny’s brother, Razor. I kept insisting, “No more dogs” right up until he left to go pick him up. I have to admit that the difference between 5 and 6 dogs really wasn’t all that discernible since he wasn’t loose in the yard. Razor’s penchant for disappearing for long periods of time necessitated his incarceration in a pen, so he was never underfoot. However, he also wasn’t much of a coon hound. He would do some of the right things, but he just couldn’t seem to put a coon up in a tree, and John became convinced that the only remedy was to find some older, more experienced dogs to take along to teach him. He called a hunting buddy in Wisconsin who has even more dogs (and less sense) than John to see if he could bring some of his dogs down here. That’s when I learned there are people who, for a fee, will transport dogs anywhere you need them to go. I put my foot down and said absolutely no way was he getting two more dogs delivered from Wisconsin! That’s how Nicki and Barney became dogs #7 and #8. They are also penned up with Razor, and most of the time I try to pretend they aren’t out there, so in my mind we only have 5 dogs, and that’s all we’ll ever have. I’m putting my foot down!

How to Poison a Dog

Monday, February 8th, 2010

I hope I don’t have to start every post with a disclaimer, but I want to make it clear that we would never intentionally poison a dog.  If you look in the yard, that would be obvious since we have 8 of them. In fact, if you want to get rid of one, just call John.  He’ll probably adopt it!  However, most of the events that will provide grist for this blog mill will be, or were caused, inadvertently.  With that said, I’m sure you are wondering, how do you poison a dog.

That’s not a typo in the first paragraph.  We have 8 (eight) dogs.  How we came to have 8 dogs is a topic for another day, but to understand how the events of this past weekend occurred, you have to understand how expensive it is to care for that many canines.  If you have a dog, you could take your expenses and multiple by 8.  If you have a small dog, you probably should multiply by 8.5 because 5 of our dogs weigh more than 50 pounds and eat accordingly.  If you don’t have a dog, just imagine driving your car into a pond once a year and buying a different one.   That would give you a pretty good idea of what we spend on our four-legged friends.

Since John grew up on a farm and raised various types of livestock, buying and administering medication to animals is second nature to him.  As our dog population increased, he gradually began to do more and more of the veterinary procedures himself.  Of course we still had to use our local vet to cast a broken leg on one of the rat terriers, and we had a wonderful surgeon who flew in from Tennessee to repair the Yorkshire terrier’s ruptured disk in his spine, so it’s not like he does everything himself.  However, administering medication for internal parasites, also known as “worming” has never been a major procedure, until now.

Ivermectin is a parasite control drug found in Heartgard, Ivomec, and various other products. It is expensive when purchased as a name brand in pre-measured doses for dogs, but purchased in bulk for large animals such as horses, the cost drops dramatically. However, measuring the exact dosage becomes a little trickier. It is relatively safe when the proper amount is administered, but it can have some very scary side effects in the case of an overdose as our 5-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Tuffy, learned. About 3 hours after receiving her dose of ivermectin, Tuffy came staggering into the living room and collapsed near my chair.  Before I could get to her, she struggled to her feet and ran into the couch giving the appearance that she was blind.  She was shaking and having mild convulsions.  Thinking she might still have some of the drug in her stomach, I immediately gave her anything and everything she would eat to dilute the concentration including a big bowl of milk.  I’m not sure if the treatment did any good, but if she had any of the drug left, it was eliminated in the middle of my living room carpet.

After a short break in poison control to clean up the mess, I switched over to administering water from a syringe.  I wish I would have taken a minute to Google “side effects ivermectin overdose” because I would have been greatly relieved to learn that her symptoms were all caused by the drug and were all temporary as long as she didn’t lapse into a coma.  Unfortunately, I was too busy freaking out with a blind dog that couldn’t walk.  As with most crises in my life, John was out hunting when the symptoms started.  He did come home after I called him on the phone, but his moral support didn’t do much to ease her condition.  I asked him how much wormer he had given her, and he said he gave her a scientifically measured “dab” on his finger. Nice. I spent the night holding her on the couch, and she settled down enough about 2:30 that I fell asleep.  She was steady enough at 5:30 to take a quick bathroom break outside, and 24 hours later her vision and motor control were back to about 85% of normal.  By the following day, she’d made a complete recovery.

I guess the upside is that Tuffy is undoubtedly parasite free at least until she catches her next rabbit or finds another roadkill entree.  Even better, now you know how to avoid poisoning a dog.

In the beginning…

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

How long does a honeymoon last?  I’ve heard some people say that the first year is considered the honeymoon phase of marriage.  The concept of a honeymoon originated in a less civilized time when a man kidnapped a woman and hid out until her relatives stopped looking for her, roughly a month.  During this period of time they drank a fermented wine made from honey.  That explains the word, but it doesn’t sound at all like our modern concept of a fun-filled getaway where the newlyweds relax and spend time together without the stress and distractions of their regular routines.  From my own personal experience, I would say the honeymoon lasts until you get back home.  In my case, exactly a week.

The event that marked the end of my honeymoon was a bath.  More specifically, it was my brand new husband’s bath.  The evening after we returned from a wonderful, romantic week in Chicago, I was unpacking our suitcases and putting away laundry when he called to me from the living room to ask if I would run his bath water and put out some clean clothes for him to wear.  After a long pause, I said, “I guess I could.  Are you sick?”  To which he replied, “No, but my mom and my sisters always did that for me.”  Another long pause.  Trying to choose my words carefully, I finally said with as much love as I could muster at this point, “Well, I guess you know where they live.”  Now I’m guessing most men would recognize this as the end of the discussion, but my knight in shining armor was more persistent than most so he countered by saying, “If you really loved me, you would want to do this for me.”  I admit he made me think for a moment because I truly did love him, so if his argument had merit, I probably should comply with his request.  My contemplation was only momentary as I realized the flaw in his logic and pointed it out by replying, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t expect me to wait on you when you are completely capable of doing it yourself.”  He ran his own bath that night.

Not many days later, we had our first fight as a married couple.  The details of the conflict have long since faded from my memory, but I will never forget how the exchange occurred and how we each responded.  We had a very short but disagreeable exchange about some inconsequential topic that ended with me yelling at him.  It ended because he had a visible, physical response to my shouting, and he abruptly turned around and walked out of the house.  I found this rather odd as vociferous arguments were not uncommon in my family and walking away was rarely the way we ended disagreements.  After about 30 minutes I was really wondering where he went and what he was doing.  Not wanting to appear worried about him, I quietly exited the back door and began to look around our country house.  I finally spotted him down by the garden felling weeds with a weed whip.  I returned to the house and waited for him to come back so we could make up.  It took him almost 2 hours to finally come back inside, not because he was that angry, but because he was totally unprepared to deal with my style of conflict resolution.  His family dynamic was much more passive-aggressive, rather than the in-your-face, lay your cards on the table approach I grew up with.  He looked so forlorn when he came in prepared to head for divorce court that I really regretted not having better prepared him during our courtship.  He has since learned how to stand his ground, and he even wins an occasional argument, but I think it was pretty apparent to him that the ride from here on out might get a little bumpy at times.

Here’s the Scoop

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Everyone keeps telling me that the stories I share about my life with my husband, John, are hilarious.  While I find some of the stories mildly amusing, personally, I wouldn’t characterize them as hilarious, but I think as a species we like to hear about the frustrations, foibles, and less-than-fairy-tale-experiences of others.  To that end, this blog will be about the every day happenings of my life, and if you find them entertaining, then I will be happy to have brightened the day of someone outside my office.

As an initial disclaimer, I want to make it clear that John is a wonderful guy, and we have enjoyed almost 38 years together, 36 of them as husband and wife.  When you get married, it’s kind of like buying a used car.  Occasionally, you get one that is pretty low mileage, and you can just jump in and take a cross-country road trip.  However, the majority of people have to overhaul the engine and do a lot of body work before it is ready to roll.  I’m happy to report that after all this time together, we have hammered out most of the dents, sanded the finish, and applied the primer.  I can’t wait to see what the final coat looks like and the direction we head for our big road trip.  I hope you decide to check in on our progress from time to time, and that you enjoy the journey as much as we have.  Oh, and just in case you are wondering, I’m not creative enough to make any of this stuff up.  I swear it’s all true!

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