Sunday, August 15, 2010

Epilogue For Rosco

After Fips died, I closed my heart to Rosco. My hand too. I did not want the feel of his bristly short fur rubbing away the tactile memory of Fips' wiry, fine hair. He was, I remarked, merely the base counterpoint to Fips' melody. At the same time, Rosco showed no interest in cuddling the way Fips had done. In fact, except for once later on, he stopped kissing. Rosco was not Fips; his presence pointed to an absence and, in my grief, I even wondered if I shouldn't put him down.

Rosco himself seemed indifferent to the change in our lives. A week after Fips' death, Jack's assistant, Dustin, asked how Rosco was doing. I replied that he seemed a little more subdued perhaps but otherwise did not seem to care one way or the other.

I was completely mistaken and I wonder how I could have thought such a thing. Looking back at pictures, it is very clear that Rosco adored Fips and looked to him, first and foremost, on all scores.

Rosquito & Fips at Mountin

It is incontestably true that many times Rosco tried to muscle his way into Fips' bowl and that Fips would let him do it until I rectified the situation. But the muscling was owed to the fact that Rosci was appetite driven. Going for the chow had nothing to do with his love and looking up to his brother. I think it is we humans who confuse things.

The two dogs were constant companions and in many ways were simply one. Even their different accomodations -- Fips at chest, Rosco at feet; Rosco on doggie lounger, Fips on seat -- were reflections of their essential unity. The way "we" do things.

On Hilderbrand

It is not possible that Rosco remained unaffected by Fips' passing. I recognized this in spite of myself when I told Dustin that whereas Rosco had previously taken his cue from Fips he was now looking more towards me. Looking to me with attending hope was the salient feature of Rosco's last days.

The good thing is that while dogs may sense our moods they at least don't hear our thoughts. Whatever my feelings, I treated Rosco no differently than before and, after the first several days, we resumed our adjusted routine. I had long expected that with Fips gone Rosco could come into his own. I did look forward to that development and calculated that if Rosco was not yet 14 we might have another year or possibly two. “It’s just you and me now, pal,” I said to him.

Alas, what with tax preparation overdue work, border crossings, a trip south and, finally, house hunting and relocation, it was not the most relaxed of times. Much as I would have preferred otherwise, there was scant occasion for long walks and exploratory sniff-abouts. Nevertheless, we worked out a fairly consistent schedule of work in the morning and gym in the early afternoon followed by padding around in Aldergrove park and, from time to time, "Alder-Mountin". There was also always the farm where Rosco could meander about looking for things to chew on.... and for me to chase him away from.

Rosco never had as much stamina as Fips. Except for one occasion very early in his life, when he chased a greyhound all around Chavez Park, Rosco's walk was essentially "dogged".

Rosco Padding on Hilderbrand

Even so, in January, he was outpacing Fips and seemed quite agile in his determined trot. Fips was slowing down and shortening our walks and, when he died, my thought was that now I could take Rosco for some longer, brisk hikes and work off some of his extra weight.

So it was that in early March, I took Rosci out for a "long circuit" at Alderpark. To my disappointment he was not all that enthusiastic. He followed bravely enough, but his heart was not in it. We may have done one or two more long circuits, but Rosco soon signaled his preference for the smaller circle and over the next two months he progressively circumscribed his walk. By June, he was content just sniffing and poking about the hedges around the first soccer field.

I only half noticed that he was tiring out. Rosco had always been a dedicated sniffer and sometimes his directional preference was simply an olfactory choice. Instead of focusing on his stamina, I was more bemused by the fact that, with Fips gone, Rosco was very definitely taking charge of the direction of our walk. As Fips had done before, Rosco now would dead stop and look up at me with that flat-line look which said "not that way". And so we would go whichever way he approved, man following dog.

Just around the middle of June, his walk appeared a little discomfitted and shortly after that he began having intermittent diarrhea. Rosco had long since been susceptible to stomach problems and so I was not overly concerned.

On 30 June we went to Lynden. It was a pleasantly warm day and, as Rosco always liked to sniff the trees along Front Street, I decided to walk him for as long as he wanted. He did pretty well under the shaded canopy but, quite normally, dogged down a bit when we moved into the overhead sun.

Then suddenly, while crossing a street, Rosco went into convulsions and coughed up clear foamy fluid. I stood there watching him as if detatched in a dream. A young man had just driven up to the crosswalk with his terrier in the car and talking out of his window, said "cool dog". "Thanks," I replied, "I think he's dying."

It seemed to me that Rosco was having a seizure, like Fips, and, if so, there was nothing to do while it lasted. Once Rosco straightened up, I hurried him back to the truck and drove to the Birch Bay clinic in Blaine.

All tests -- $300.00 worth -- came out negative. Absent further X-rays and tests showing up some sort of cancer, Jack diagnosed the matter as irritable bowel syndrome. Jack administered, fluids, cortisone and flagyl. For the moment there was nothing to do but wait.

Rosco's bowel movement improved sporadically, somewhat. Five days later (4 July) on the untrustworthy advice of a meddlesome person, I ran Rosco to the Apex Clinic in Langley and insisted that he be treated for tape worm. The vet acquiesced without more and the miserable result was that Rosco spent the next two days unnecessarily vomitting up food mixed in with gastric fluid.

Meanwhile, the time had come to bury Fips. I simply could not put it off any longer especially if I was going to have to look for new quarters. Dustin offered to board Rosco but I could not subject her to cleaning up his ongoing diarrhea. Rosco at least appeared to have stabilised enough for us to take the trip to Sonoma.

We made it in 21 hours; me exhausted but Rosco in bored comfort. Although one of his deposits on arrival was firm, his diarrhea persisted and that first night at Rosie's I put him down on some mats next to my bed and made sure he could venture nowhere else. He would have none of it. Once the lights were out he made it known that he wanted up, and so, spent the rest of the night curled up next to me with his head on my pillow. Sweetheart.

How much do dogs know? Michael has always said, "More than we think." It is anyone's guess if Rosco smelled Fips in the cooler through the trunk. But there can't be any question that he knew Fips was present while Don and I wrapped him in his shroud. I doubt Rosco grasped the concept of what we call "burial" but it seems evident he understood that we were burying Fips.

Rosco had always been a champ about travelling. During the trip down, he basically sacked out until we got to Rosie's. Once arrived, he actively, and one might even say, energetically, explored her garden. Still, Rosco did not look good. The diarrhea, the induced vomitting, the travel and the heat had all worked to sap his strength. On Saturday (9 July) Don and I ran him over to Middletown vet where he was pronounced dehydrated. Tests for heartworm were negative and Rosco was given subcutaeous fluids and more drugs to control his intestinal problem. The vet suspected pancreatitis, and emphatically recommended an Rx diet. Of course, Rosco would have none of it and all but spat the food. At the same time, his poop solidified.

The trip back was hot, despite the air-conditioning and that, combined with spitting out his prescription food and not digesting the boiled chicken I began to give him, left Rosco skinnier and once again dehydrated. On 14 July I ran him to the Jack's for another hydration. A few days later I took him to the Apex Clinic in Langley to get medication for the mucous in his left eye. For quite some time, Rosco has been susceptible to getting a little mucous in his left eye but the trip and his general condition now made it worse. Dr. Rana said, in so many words, that Rosco was wasting away, but he sold me some neomycin salve to administer as a palliative. Several days later, I administered another hydration with the kit Jack had provided.

We were now on the see-saw of symptoms and the roller coaster of recuperation and set-back. It was often hard to tell exactly how bad off Rosco might be. He had been overweight for several years and, at times he now looked slimmer and better. Other times he looked mis-shapen and weak. But not so weak that he couldn't but up a fight to the finish against any pill. On our return from down south, I tried to give him the flagyl pills the Middletown vet had prescribed, but he was so determined I eventually gave up. It seemed to me it caused him more debilitating stress and grief than it was worth. At least Jack didn't seem to think it was that critical. Being Rosco, he was always up for food; but, even here, he was fickle, turning away from chow or snax he had previously liked. Once I gave up on the prescription mush, I changed his diet three times, from boiled chicken to kibble (which he basically refused) and finally back to Pedigree which he liked and ate till the end. Through all these permutations, the whole thing began to have the air of an unravelling.

The second half of July was a harried and stressful in any case. Most of my free time was given over to looking for new lodgings, mostly across the border. Poor Rosco spent most of his time on the doggie lounger, often in warm weather. I don't think this did him much good, but at the same time his condition did stabilise somewhat. He had recovered from his dehydration, he vomitted very little, and although his diarrhea was persistent he had worked out his own way of dealing with it. Most of the day he sat quietly on the bed, asking for "outs" once in a while to go pee, reserving his serious pooping for the night.

One of the most lovable things about Rosco was his unmistakable social sense and sensibility. When we returned to Middletown in 2004, I noticed that he had developed a need to pee once or twice a night. What was striking was that he made a decided and determined effort to do so away from wherever the common area was. I had moved the bed downstairs because I didn't want Rosco hurting his back by humping down the stairs to go out to the back garden. However, once downstairs, Rosco would seek to climb upstairs to go pee there. I praised and petted him for his good intentions and, blocking the stairs, showed him that even if it was on the same floor, he could and should pee in the back porch area.

During our trip to Vancouver in 2009, Rosco would wake me up when he needed to pee at night. He would do this by walking back and forth on the tarps making as much padding and shuffling noise as he could until I eventually woke up and took him out. Now, at home on the farm, he would rattle the step-up board I had placed by the door. Much as I hated being woken up, I could not but love him for his consideration.

Still, I needed my sleep and no longer gave a damn if Rosco let loose all over the farm. So now I left the door open and about twice a night Rosci would go out and roam around looking for the right place to poop or dribble. Despite the diarrhea, Rosco appeared to stabilise. He certainly had enough spirit to persist in his consciously mischievous attempts to poke about the Forbidden Barn.

At the same time, he was definitely getting more lethargic. On our last outing in Alderpark, he did not want to venture very far and was more interested in chewing dirt and then sniffing the air in the gentle rays of the setting sun.

But the following day back in Blaine, he ambled about rather normally and -- joy of joys -- he deposited a solid poop right at the entrance of the pizza parlor where I had gone for a sunset pizza and salad.

A day or so later, he again had a fair amount of energy during our last walk at Alder-Mountin, even if his walk showed signs of an enfeebled lightness of step. His routine at home, remained much the same: perambulating and, no doubt, pooping at night, napping, lying in the sun or keeping an eye out on me during the day.

In fact, the move out of Canada and to Bellingham was probably more stressful for me than for Rosco. But because Rosco was always prone to intense separation anxiety, throughout it all, I kept him at my side and repeatedly reached down to pat him on the head. For his part, Rosci, with his "Buddhist" air, acceptingly went along with whatever it was time to do. And more than just acceptance. Rosco's "doggedness" includes making a brave effort. Up until his next to last day, Rosco would make ready to jump up into the truck. Squealing his praises, I would always let him make the initial flex before helping him up the rest of the way.

But as of last Tuesday (3 August) it was evident, once again, that quite apart from whatever progress and regress was going on with his intestines, he was slowing down. The two previous days had been given over to the usual hectic business of moving. Once we were at least parked in the new digs, I felt I had to take him out somewhere. He liked Lynden's tree lined street and so I ran him up for a sniff and poop. His idea of an "outing" was now to sit on the cool grass and sniff the air. So we sat.

And as we sat, I looked at how emaciated he had become. It was now unmistakable. He was wasting away. His arms were no longer muskli and his haunchies were boney. His collar hung two inches loose around his neck. His spine was a sharp ridge while his stomach was flabby and bloated. My mind summoned up the distilled sense of 14 years. I thought to myself how it had been a long run and I cried. "Tomorrow."

But the little coot rallied. After an hour he picked himself up and went on a slow but steady sniff about. I did some googling and discovered that Cornwall Park was but a mile down the road from the apartment. So, the next afternoon, I took him to the park.

He was no speed-king and he eventually just sat in the grass. But he had sniffed about and did not seem to be unhappy.

But both eyes now were getting pussy. So the following day, I took him up to Blaine for another check up. Rosco followed me into the clinic and then immediately turned tail to head back out. We all laughed. "He can't be that bad if he is that spunky." Jack gave him a cortisone shot and some drops for his eyes. We discussed Rosco's condition. Jack thought that the diarrhea would go away gradually over time and that Rosco could be stabilised and habilitated with monthly cortisone shots. If that were the case, he would teach me how to administer the shots myself so I could save some money. "You can't keep them alive forever, but I've seen them last a long time that way." He asked me to keep a log and email him the entries.

For my part I had by now accepted living with Rosco's bowel condition. I placed tarps all over the apartment and on what was to be the Poop Porch. Rosco was a real champ. We worked out a routine where I would take him out very first thing in the morning, at which time he explored the bushes around the apartments and either firm pooped or dribbled. Thereafter, he held it in or porched pooped until we went out again in the afternoon. His busy time was at night.

Rosco was a champ in another way as well. I had expected him to get all confused and disoriented by the move. Not in the least. He immediately got his new bearings: left from the apartment and down the hall to the elevator, down two floors (listening) and right to the building entrance. Rosco's mental alertness indicated to me that he had not reached that point of pained indifference but that he still had esprit in his little body .

Although his decreased stamina was evident, I also took note of his gait. His bouncy trot down the hallway with his head up indicated that he was not in arthritic or other pain. So who cared if he had "irritable bowel syndrome" and what did it matter if, at 14, he slept a lot and was "slow"? So long as he was alert and perky during our morning and afternoon walks, so long as he wagged his tail for other doggies, so long as he did his happy dance for food and for so long as he liked going for rides and enjoyed sniffing bushes and the air, he had a life worth holding on to.

It was not to be. With each outing, Rosco walked less and less. On our subsequent outing to Cornwall park, he just wanted to find a place to poop and then sit in the grass 20 or so yards from the truck. On our next to last sitting, he did not bother to wag tail when another dog came up to sniff. "What must that dog smell?" I wondered.


With each passing day of the week, Rosco had less energy. This did not mean that he wasn't "up" for an outing. On the contrary, was eager to go out. He just couldn't last at it.

Now, even walks even around the apartment parking lot and grounds were becoming circumscribed. On Friday he hesistated walking to the elevator and, on reaching the front door, again sat down on the matt before slowly walking to the divider where he struggled up over the curb to sniff the bushes.

Thursday-Friday night he murmurred quietly most of the night. On Friday-Saturday he did not, but on Saturday morning his stomach was bloated and he he was lying in a weirdly crooked position. His walk to the elevator and downstairs gave signs of both disorientation and discomfort. I wrote to Jack:

I think it's time to put Rosco down. Unless I am overlooking something, I'm forgetting the forest for the trees. Whether he manages two firm poops versus three runny ones, the unmistakable trajectory is down. Of concern to me is the degree to which he has physically slowed down. I suspect his heart is failing. What has confused things is the vomitting. In the past two/three days he has stopped vomitting but this morning was tyring to hack up some foamy phlegm by itself. We could try digitalis, but absent tests it would be on a hit and miss basis. Lastly, his discomfort level seems to have increased. He no longer manages an even perky little trot (as he did until the day before yesterday). The sad thing is that he is alert, inquisitive, still remembers which way to go, still figures out that he is to pee and poop on the porch... and still wants to be with me. Mentally he's very present, it's the other systems that are failing him.
The whole business of dealing with his stomach ailment shifted the focus so that Rosco's lethargy or awkward slowness in walking seemed more connected to his intestinal problems. In addition none of the vets said anything about his heart except that it had a not surprising murmur. But over the last week, taking the long view, it seemed to me that, in fact, his heart was failing.

Yes, he was still little Rosco. He was still sentient and expectant. His mind was alert. He understood, knew his left from his right, could follow my directions. He was in discomfort, particularly at night; but he was not quite asking me to put and end to it. It was more like he was just going to tolerate it while (I am sure) hoping I could do something about it. More and more it seemed to me I was hoping too much and that it was just a matter of time before he crossed the line into indifference or doggie despair.

And so the deed was done.

Still, I am haunted by the thought that I might have missed something really simple that would have made all the difference in outcomes. Throughout the entire period and particularly in July, my attention was harried by a plague of focuses. For each project there was a myriad of details to take care of. If only we had been left alone I could have focused more on Rosco alone. Vets are no better than the shortness of leash they are kept on. Perhaps, unharried, I might have been able to ask more pertinent questions and come up with better solutions. It was never a question of throwing money I did not have on useless tests which would do no more than reveal the existence of the incurable. But it was a question of having the psychological “space” for facts and impressions to fall into that place that points to something overlooked. If only there had been some stability and calm, perhaps that would have helped Rosco recuperate.

And I just feel awful that, after a protracted decline, his end was so rushed. In all events, I had wanted it to be cooler and calmer. Instead it was hot and harried. I did not have time to "be" with Rosco, to take him to Blaine for a last pad-about or to explain things to him.

The alternative was to wait until Monday and that, given Rosco's deteriorating condition, ran the risk of exposing him to 48 hours of certain discomfort and probably pain. Would he bounce back yet again? Already yesterday afternoon, outside the Lynden Post Office, he showed no interest in going further than the patch of shaded grass in front of the truck, which was less even than his last walk at Cornwall Park. Admittedly it was warm and he would have done better in cooler weather; but now, on this his final morning, it was hardly warm and even so he was reluctant to walk and had diffculty doing so. He was still atuned to my doings, still capable of deciding to pee on the porch, still (albeit a little half heartedly) interested in food and still - I hope and do hope -- sensible of my love; but just as evidently his heart was failing. The time had simply come.

Was there really no alternative time? I could have paid for a special office visit later Saturday or even Sunday. Although I preferred to avoid that additional expense, when I called Dustin back moments after speaking to Jack, I was willing to do precisely that and we talked about doing it later in the day or, if need be, on Sunday. But then Dustin said to just come on up. "But Jack said he had to leave by noon and I can't make it by then." "Oh don't pay attention to him; he'll be here." There wasn’t time to ponder. The die was cast.

I am annoyed at Jack for not answering my email sooner and for not cooling his heels. How much better had he given us five minutes upon arrival instead of saying that he had to do it quickly on account of his appointment. It's really impossible to blame him, but I still wish he had been more generous with his time.

Rosco was slow walking to the truck, but I did not rush him. I pretended it was just an outing as I lifted him onto the front seat. I noticed that he did not try to climb up to the doggie lounger. Evidently he decided that to do so would cause him discomfort and that he would be more comfy and content to sit on the seat.

Now, at 11.30, it was already getting hot and I opened the fly windows. I drove fast, in part to get to Blaine, but also to create as much wind for the dog. Fortunately the air itself was not yet hot, so that Rosco was buffetted by a temperate breeze. He was not panting, as he had been yesterday, and did not seem to be in pain. He was just weak and probably guarding his energy reserves.

Despite my own impatience, I used the time to gently stroke him, pat him and rest my right arm along his back. He did not seem to mind. Fortunately too, half of the drive was through empty back farm roads, so that the air, the steady speed and my strokes synchronized in a more or less soothing fashion.

As we got to the parking lot, Rosco half sat up and lifted his head. He knew that we had arrived at a place and, I know, he also sniffed the sea air... the sea air that he has always loved and that would start him chortling as we approached point Isabel.

It was then, that a few precious minutes would have best. I walked to the door and Jack said to hurry and bring Rosco in. I asked him if he was going to give a pre anesthetic and Jack said that there would not be time for that. I said in that case it would probably be better just to do it in the truck. Jack agreed and rushed out with needle in hand saying we had to do it quick, as we gave Rosci a rough n' tumble turn to his side. At first Rosco resisted, more on account of the brusqueness than anything else, but then he subdued himself.

Jack was in so much of a rush that the syringe chamber popped away from the needle at the first press, splurting the killer juice all over the place. Jack had to rush into the clinic to get another load. At least, this gave me some time to caress Rosco a bit. He was physically acquiescent so that the caressing was more a question of psychological assurance.

Jack returned and drove the rest of the fluid straight into Rosco's heart. Rosco neither winced, nor moaned nor moved. It seems to have been pretty painless. Jack was then off saying it would take about five to ten minutes. Dustin gave me a look and I gave her a nod. She left us alone.


As Rosco's heart beat softer and more slowly I caressed his body and murmured to him. He seemed to accept it, as his breathing gradually disappeared. As I momentarily turned away, he opened his mouth for a last ever so faint sigh.

His passing was so quiet. In a way, it was lovely; but at the same time I feel terrible that I did not have time to explain, to be with him and not to have panicked him with brusque handling. I'll never know, as I do with Fips, but I just hope that somehow he knew and understood that I was ending a long togetherness out of love for him.

Little Rosco, little Rosci -- I ened up loving him more than I thought. No, he was not Fips. Fips was complicated and Rosco was simple. But his simplicity distilled into a clearer sweetness. He looked up to me in a more purely expectant way than Fips who looked up to me with a stance and a question in his eyes that was always taking measure. Rosco just looked for the what of I whatever I was going to do in the hope of fulfillment.

Oh, to be sure, Rosco pursued his own agenda. He was not a sponge. What most comes to mind when I think of Rosco is his padding down Hildrebrand, his swimming down the creek to go screw Katie and his rompin in the lupins. For Rosco, at least, the Hilderbrand years were the best ones.

Rompin Rosco

Years ago, at Hildrebrand, I turned from the kitchen counter and burst into laughter as I beheld this doggie looking up at me with trembling expectation. I felt for him and thought him an adorable bundle of fuzzy appetites which he was. But to say he was driven by appetites is not to say that he was selfish. I see now, on the contrary, that desire was the drive through which he became social, shaping himself around Fips and sharpening his attention on me. The baseline follows the melody. Perhaps more than Fips and certainly more than me, his being was “us”.

And so... his passing brings an end to us.


Today, I took out the special flooring in the cars and put away all the canine accoutrements -- the dual sets of leashes, chow tins, bowls, water jugs, spray bottles, combs and clippers, vitamins and meds.

No more doggies; no more doggies; no more little doggies.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fuzzy Farewell

Today, Fips was buried in silence.

The following afteroon, when no one was around, I went and stood over my pal's grave. After a few moments, I said to him that I was grateful he came into my life.....

Why is it we face imponderables with a cliché?

NO! To say that I am grateful you came into my life doesn’t state the truth of the matter. You shaped my life, you shaped my life with your frumpiness, your quizzical humor and ultimately your love.

You have a beautiful resting place as befits a beautiful, beautiful dog.

You do not go under to the earth. You rise up through my heart to the sky forever.

I fell to the ground over his grave and sobbed

Oh Mr. Fips. Bye bye my dear sweet doggie.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The blood work came out negative. There was nothing wrong with Little Fips, except his seizures could not be controlled. Now we knew what we had understood before.


I carried him down the hallway on his stretcher to the truck where I laid him out on the front seat, and made him comfortable, breathing but lifeless.

I sat down next to him and stroked his smooth fuzzy body, patting his haunchies, as his chest undulated with even breaths ...and as I stroked his beautiful head.

I spoke to him softly through the torpor and told him he was the "Best Little Doggie in the Whole Wide World"

Then, with throaty-murmurs, Fips began to quiver and suddenly lifted himself up ...

... and turned his head to give me one last kiss. As I bent down to kiss his nose, I looked into his eyes and next I knew his head fell back and he slid away from my arm.

The murmuring stopped and Fips lay down staring into his darkness.


The elixir was pressed into his body. Fips let out a low whine -- as if in protest -- and then it was silent.


Monday, February 22, 2010





Of Quick Effluvia

It was a rough night. Fips had a seizure at eleven and another at three-thirty. I held him tight and stroked his head, which seemed to help. I gave him added medicine-meat which he devoured as if starved, and this allowed us both to get some rest with his chin resting on my chest or shoulder.

With but little murmurs, he was pretty quiescent in the morning as I deliberately packed everything I had laid out for the trip to Blaine. The border agent, a nice woman, handed my passport back in an awkward flat-handed way. She had placed a little cookie-bone on top.

I have loved this rolling country road through thick woods and undulating fields of green since I got here. It was a beautiful morning to go.


On being lifted out of the truck, Fips couldn't make it and stumbled over his front paws. So I carried him to his hospital kennel where he curled up quietly on a fresh towel and one of my flannel shirts.

There is understanding and there is knowing; and so as we awaited the results of his blood work, I went for a drive.

On my return Fips was snoozing quietly. I walked over to his cage and with a "Hello Little Fipsie" began to stroke his fuzzy body. Suddenly, he began to shake and to emit throaty pain murmurs. I looked at Dr. Jack. "What did I do?" "It's an adrenalin rush," Jack explained, "He's happy to see you but it triggers an overload in his brain."

Say what the use... If quick effluvia darting through the brain;
to die of a rose in aromatic pain? ...
How would we wish that Heaven had left him still...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Grand Ol' Moxy

Fips is such a champ. He's been on and off pain all day depending on how well the meds work or perhaps not depending on the meds at all. Most of the afternoon he was quiet and seemed comfortable enough.

A little after four, he wanted to go out and began to make murmur noises (that sounded like pain noises) to that effect. He began to drag himself to the door. It was obvious that he need to pee or poop and he wanted to go outside to do it like a dignified dog.

I stabilized him by holding his tail and walked him to the door. He was determined to step up onto the platform and over the door jam on his own (tail-held) steam. I squealed encouragement and praise and even more so when on the outside ramp he crashed landed on his chin.

He then wanted to walk all over the front yard... so, holding onto his tail, I followed him and was amazed at how well, in a matter of one day, he has been able to coordinate his forward motion with my lateral stabilising. He had very few forward stumbles or backside keel-overs.

After a while my own back started to ache, so I left him under a seat on the grass and ran back to the house for one my long terry cloth towel scarves. This enabled me to support his abdomen without breaking my back.

So equipped, following the loops of his scents, he walked all over the front green and down the slope where he pooped. He walked back up half way and then I carried him up the driveway level the rest of the way. He then made it triumphantly back to the house up the step ramp and over the door hump.

Once inside I left off and his backside slid back down.

It's sad. This is the little doggie that walked 10 miles with Michael to the Golden Gate Bridge, and back; and it is now something that he has a few minutes slow stepping in the fresh air. But his doxy moxy is just as grand now as it ever was.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Stumbling On

Fips' stumbling is getting worse. His gait is very stiff on the rear right and that same leg often just gives out from under him, causing him to slide down onto his butt, as if keeling over on the right rear side. Once down it is difficult for him to stand up again, although eventually he still manages.

This has been building up, but since the seizure it is radically worse. On the Alderpark trail walks, in December or January, I was able to "massage out" his hips and this would cause the curving back and the bias to the right to correct itself.

In the morning he would be stiff, and stumble a bit but as the day wore on he would get better.

The walk before the last one at the athletic field, which was either Sunday or Monday, he was quite okay. Stiff in the rear with a very slight right bias but otherwise pretty good. His hesitation and reluctance had more to do with blindness than with lameness.

Immediately after the seizure he was collapsing on his rear a lot. But once home, that night, he was walking around and around in a circle. Stiffly but walking.

However since then it has gotten worse... and it seems to get progressively worse. Even if he can manage to walk stiffly and straight, the slightest turn causes him to collapse. He is not dragging his leg, it just doesn't hold him up.

So I took him to Dr. Jack who looked at the December X-rays. Jack says L2, L4 disks have growth and this is the disk through which the nerve trunk line to the rear leg runs. He gave him a shot a cortisone and said to put him back on the previcox and that he would be up and running again. Come Monday when we do the blood test, he wants to put him on steroids.

I'm getting different diagnoses here. Back in December, Rana said he had no significant spurs on his vertebrae and that I could take him off previcox. Two doctors down in California said that if hadn't developed back problems by this age, he was basically free and clear. Could the phenobarbitol interfere with his brain control of the hind leg?

As for the eyes. Jack said he does react to light (the lens closes) but that he is effectively blind. He doesn't think the carnosine will work for this type of "cataract"


This degeneration is pathetic to watch. Fips does seem confused or at a loss and does struggle with his failing gait. Sometimes he just gives up and curls up on the floor where he is... for a pseudo "nap" before lifting himself up and then stiffly walking about and stumbling. He doesn't see things (like his bowl) and so he walks into it and then falls over it. He walks himself into corners and then just stares. None of this strikes me as happy.

I watched him very closely during our walk down mainstreet in Blaine before taking him to the vet. He actually managed better on the street than in the house or around this farm. In fact he managed OK on the gravel. He stumbled but was actually able to lift himself up. He also crossed the street slowly but without collapsing as cars patiently waited.

Most important, he was interested in smelling the bushes and posts and this much he seemed to enjoy, albeit in a quiet elder way.

He still has appetite and although he eats slowly he clearly wants and to still enjoys food (especially meat and mush).

Coming back home this afternoon, he did bounce over and down the door ledge and took a challenge poke at Rosco. (Jack said he would do this).

He enjoys cuddling with me along my side.

With Fips the stumbles don't just produce perplexity. I have a clear sense that he is disappointed and perhaps even humiliated. It is also clear that he is in at least SOME discomfort but not so much that he doesn't want to walk at all. But although he may be frustrated, he has not given up.

He also knows that I am trying to do something about the eyes.

It's pointless to prognosticate, since time will tell shortly enough. What matters is that he not suffer pain, humiliation or demoralization and that he still have moments of enjoyment in life.

My job is to care for him and watch and be patient. I get exasperated when he stumbles into a bowl and sets of a big CLANG. But I take a deep breath, walk over, lift him up and stroke him. I should try to crank up some "cheerfulness" from within me to impart to him. Patience and stroking is fine and good, but it is also sorrowful, and I think I need to find a way to inject some emotional happiness into him, if I can.

There will be time enough in the future to think back to brighter puppier days.