Time to Count Blessings Again

They say a mom always knows when something’s not right with one of her kids. I think that holds true for “fur-kids” as well.

Case in point: my Sheltie.

First off, he’s a big boy. He was bigger than his two sisters from the get-go and over the past almost-six years, he’s packed on the pounds.

This, despite my careful measuring of his food, supplementing with green beans and raw carrots, regular walks, and lots of “Fetch” and “Chase.”

I tried to tell myself he was just big-boned. That he takes after his “substantial” mama. That his profuse coat is what makes him appear big.

But you can only deny the figures so long. And the scale wasn’t his friend.

So I went on line to learn about weight gain in dogs and found that Shelties tend to have problems with low Thyroid. This condition is often undiagnosed, but it results in a less-than-luxurious coat, frequent ear infections, skin allergies, and weight gain.

Hmm, sounds like my doggin, I thought.

At his checkup in early September, the vet pointed out that he’d ballooned to almost 40 pounds (on what should be a 30-lb. frame!)

So I asked to have his thyroid levels checked. ‘It’s a simple blood test,’ they assured me, before drawing blood from his forearm. “We’ll send it to a lab in Michigan and have the results back in about a week.’

“Cheer up, mom!”

I waited. And worried.

And one day my fears seemed to take over.

What if something was seriously wrong, I wondered.

How could I live without my “soul dog?”

Well, the answer came in, and it was as I’d thought — low thyroid.

I’m glad to have a diagnosis.

I’m glad to have been right.

But mostly, I’m glad it’s not fatal. The Sheltie has to take a pill twice a day, morning and evening, probably for life.

It could be so much worse.

Dogs Get Sick, Too

Just in time for My Favorite Domer’s return for summer break, the Sheltie has come down with a urinary tract infection.

“Mr. Piddles” wet his little bed last night. He was rather damp when I let him out for his customary Good Morning hugs, but I didn’t think too much about it.

Must have been hot, I told myself — until I saw a wet spot on his mat. And felt said spot. And sniffed my damp fingers. And smelled pee.

Trying not to react too negatively — he’s got delicate feelings like other Shelties — I greeted him and sent him outside.

I went over the check-list of his bedtime routine. Yes, he’d been out. Yes, he’d pottied. No, he hadn’t had any water.

So why had this dog who’s normally as tidy as a nun suddenly soiled his bedding?

I asked Mom, who kept him while I traveled to Notre Dame to fetch the Domer, how he acted during my absence.

He missed you, she told me. He drank a lot of water. And slept a lot.

How was his appetite? I asked.

Fine.

Hmmm. The pieces of the puzzle were starting to come together.

I called the vet’s office, explained everything to them, and asked if dogs can get kidney or bladder issues.

Of course, they said. We’ll need a urine sample for the lab to analyze. Either bring him in or have him pee in a container.

Oh boy. I live for first-time events like this.

As I was trying to decide which option was more doable, Domer showed up wanting breakfast.

I need your help, I said, having decided against hauling a wet Sheltie anywhere in my clean car.

We’re going to what? Domer asked.

Shrugging, I dug out a Styrofoam cup. Domer leashed up “Mr. Piddles,” and we all went to the back yard.

He’s not going to do it, Domer said, as he and the dog sauntered through the grass.

Sure he will, I countered.

Eventually, “Mr. Piddles” lifted a leg, and I was Johnny-on-the-spot, shoving that Styrofoam beneath him to catch the stream.

All right, Domer said.

Easy.

I wrapped the cup in tin foil and took it to the vet’s office. Ten minutes later, we had the results.

And the sulfa drugs to treat the infection.

I’ve spent more time than I care to admit cleaning “Mr. Piddles'” bed today. Washing everything, Clorox-ing the wet spot, airing out his mattress.

And hoping I don’t have to do it all over again tomorrow.

Should be a wonderful upcoming ten days.

What are you looking forward to in the next week?

Bunny Tales (or should I say, Tails?)

I hate to say this, but when God was handing out brains, rabbits were in another line.

Oh, they’re cute, all right. And they can hop and run fast. And I’ve never heard of one attacking anything (except, perhaps a veggie garden!)

But why are mama rabbits so dumb?

I mean, we have a large, fenced backyard, perfect for the Sheltie to run. We have trees and bushes, where the Sheltie can lounge or play hide-and-seek.

It’s not a yard where anybody would be dumb enough to drop their litter of babies, then run off and ignore them for hours on end.

Backyard bunny nest

But leave it to an as-yet-unseen Mama Bunny — that’s just what she did.

The other day, I watched from a window while the Sheltie went out to potty. He doesn’t get a cookie reward unless he accomplishes something, and I’ve known him to fib!

Well, he kept nosing around this one spot, circling it, examining it, curiosity written all over his furry face.

He’d found something.

Having just proofed an article on rabies in wildlife that a friend had penned for the local newspaper, I feared the worst.

A dead animal. With rabies.

So I braved the outdoors to check. What I saw was a patch of rabbit’s fur on the ground, and the fur was moving!

Mama Bunny had thrown caution to the wind and dropped her babies right in my backyard. Right where the Sheltie could get at them, if he was so inclined.

Now every time he goes out, I’m having to remind him to keep away from that bunny hole. So far, he seems to understand.

But he’s mighty curious. And every time the door opens, he high-tails it outside, right to THE SPOT.

Where he watches. And listens. And sniffs.

I can only hold him off so long. When those babies pop out of that hole, he’s going to have a field day herding them around the yard!

If the neighbor’s cats don’t get them first.

Easter Egg Hunting

Sad to say, My Favorite Domer learned from an early age that Easter Egg hunts aren’t as much fun as they’re cracked up to be.

When he was but a young’un, Domer signed up to participate in the annual YMCA egg hunt.

There would be prizes. And candy. And a visit from the Easter Bunny. And fun.

Or so we thought.

The day of the hunt dawned cold (typical Midwest weather). We arrived at the park, registered, and were shown which fenced-off area the kids in his age group would comb.

So far, so good.

When the whistle blew, the kids were off. Problem was, so were the parents.

Yep, the adults got involved in a kids’ Easter Egg hunt. They mowed down the fence and muscled their way toward the hidden eggs, knocking down little kids right and left.

Kids were crying and screaming; other parents were hollering.

Nobody had much fun.

Especially Domer, who, like his mom, doesn’t particularly like crowds.

Or aggression.

Our Easter Egg hunts then became more tandem affairs. I’d hide the eggs; he’d find them. When he got older, he’d hide the eggs and let me look for them (but mostly, he just couldn’t stand not telling me where each one was!)

Fast-forward a few years. Domer was fifteen when a darling Sheltie came to live with us.

Too old for egg hunts.

So we decided to hold an egg hunt for the dog.

We took some treats (broken bits of Pupperoni work especially well!) and inserted them into plastic eggs. One of us went outside with the dog while the other hid the eggs in plain sight inside.

With the hiding completed, we let the Sheltie inside to search.

He LOVED it! Amid much clapping and laughing and encouragement from us, he raced around the house looking for the eggs with the treats. Finding one, he’d bust it open and scarf down the tidbit.

So that’s become our Easter tradition — a dog’s egg hunt.

No pushing, no shoving, no screaming. Everybody has fun, and isn’t that what Easter Egg hunts are supposed to be like? Here, take a look at a few of this year’s hunting photos:

Finding a pink egg

Finding a yellow egg

Domer helps with the blue egg

An Almost-Escape

A few days before Thanksgiving, our yard man showed up to mow/mulch in what we anticipated would be his final appearance until next spring.

Now this is a guy we’ve used in the past, several times in fact. He generally does a decent job, is reasonably fast, and (when we remind him) edges and blows off the sidewalks and driveway.

I distinctly remember cautioning him when he first reported for duty that I have a dog. The gate, I said, needs to be shut and locked when he finishes — every time, no excuses.

Okay, he said.

Being a Nervous Nellie, I always checked after he left to make certain he’d done just that.

And he had.

One can grow complacent in the face of reliability.

The day in question was dreary. Foggy. Damp. Drizzly. Cold.

As soon as the yard man left, Mom opened the door so Darling Doggie could relieve himself.

In his nice, safe, fenced yard.

Did you check the gate? I asked her.

No, he always shuts it, she said.

Something insisted I check.

I took out a bag of trash and found Darling Doggie standing on the back porch. A quizzical expression flitted across his furry face.

I need to check the gate, I told him. He beat me there and stood about a yard inside staring at the OPEN gate!

My heart skipped a beat, or maybe more.

Patting him and praising him for being a good dog, I inserted myself between him and the gate, and swiftly shut the thing and locked it.

He followed me inside, where I promptly gave him a Pupperoni treat.

But as he slept that afternoon (and as I fell asleep that night), scary images raced through my mind:

What if he’d seen a squirrel or cat and given chase?

What if he’d become disoriented in the world beyond the gate and couldn’t find his way back home?

What if I’d had to track him all over the county?

What if someone had stolen him?

What if a strange dog had come into our back yard?

What if I hadn’t checked that gate?

Those whose hearts have never been claimed by a dog probably can’t understand the panic I felt. Pets rely on us their entire life, not like babies who eventually grow up and often move away.

So St. Francis, thank you for the insistent nudge, for looking after my Sheltie!

And next time, I don’t care how reliable a worker is — you can bet I’m going to check that gate before sending my doggie outside.

Sheltie Paws

Like many other long-haired breeds, Shelties require at least periodic grooming.

They’re naturally clean, but you still have to bathe and brush, as well as trim excess fur in places like ears and feet.

Normally, I do my doggin’s grooming myself. His breeder has graciously mentored me and, while I’m no expert, my dog comes away looking like a Sheltie should look.

It also gives us a chance to bond, accustoms him to being handled, and saves a few bucks!

But last week, after returning from Gulfport, I decided to take him to a local groomer, one he’s been to several times before, one who usually does a decent job with him.

Until this time.

This is what his front paws look like after her grooming:

Bad Sheltie paw

Eeek, ugly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice how the nails look like talons and the fur is “sliced” back to expose the claws? Notice the sprigs of hair sticking out all over? You can’t really tell in this photo, but it’s cut in layers, almost exposing the foot.

Nothing close to what a true Sheltie paw should look like. She must have used straight scissors, when you’re only supposed to use thinning shears to blend the furs.

So what does a true Sheltie paw look like? This:

Pretty Sheltie paws, thanks to Sheltie Nation for the image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See how the nails don’t stick out? See how the feet look like tight cotton balls?

It’s not easy to do, but if you’re going to capture that pretty Sheltie look, you’ve got to make the feet right!

In all fairness, my boy’s groomer admitted to feeling lousy with a head cold; she didn’t admit (or deny) having a flunky sub on the grooming for her, but what else can I conclude?

No, my Sheltie isn’t a show dog, but he’s MY show dog. And I know he knows he’s not at his prettiest with paws this ugly.

Still, fur grows out eventually, and his will, too. When that happens, count on me to do the trimming!

Notre Dame Football, part 1

I just got back from my first football weekend at Notre Dame, and I’m stoked to capture it all! But, writer that I am, I took in so many impressions I’ll have to break them up over a few days’ time.

Let’s get the preliminaries out of the way today.

This was a BIG DEAL for me. I imagine lots of people go to college football games every year, but I’m one who hasn’t.

Not that I haven’t wanted to.

It’s just that I live 500 or so miles from my alma mater (Go Rebels!), and that’s a pretty far piece to travel for a three-hour game.

So I watch on TV every Saturday, screaming at the screen, yelling with the fans, and scaring my poor Sheltie senseless!

And even when I was an undergrad, I was in the Band all four years, so I never really had to figure out the logistics of attending a game. Things like: how do you get a ticket, where can you park, what can you bring (or not bring) into the stadium, how do you find your seat.

That sort of thing.

So last year, when My Favorite Domer asked me to come to a Notre Dame game, I panicked and put him off. Couldn’t get tickets, couldn’t get a hotel room.

‘Fraidy-cat. Big time.

This year, he tried again, only he was ready for my excuses. He fired up his laptop and found me a convenient hotel (so it was in the next county, but Indiana isn’t that big!); he even sent me a link to order my tickets online.

How could I refuse?

My sister (who’s been married forever) said I was very brave to try something like this by myself. Several friends, jealous they couldn’t get tickets for the season’s first game under a brand new coach, insisted I take LOTS of pictures so they could experience it vicariously. Even my mom volunteered to go with me and stay in the hotel “so I wouldn’t be alone.”

They thought I was NUTS for wanting to be alone!

But I wasn’t. There were 80,000-plus fans screaming right alongside me!

Tomorrow, I’ll share more sights and sounds from campus.