To Prance, Perchance to Soar (#345)

Our rescue dog Woofie was a tough cookie. He ran headfirst into everything from a shovel to a Volvo station wagon without a single yelp. He took endless hits across the muzzle when playing with Boss Cat.

Maybe Woofie was extra tough because he had a back hock that was slowly disintegrating, due to an injury as a puppy. We’d explored putting in a plate and screws to fix the joint in place and provide stability, but that would still be painful—even after surgery healed. Woofie loved to stretch out his legs behind him, too, which he’d never be able to do again.

We tried to give Woofie enough exercise and play to keep him happy without further injuring the joint. He was on pain meds daily, but the vet warned us to be careful about how many we gave him, since longterm use can cause organ damage. Sometimes Woofie would play too hard and the next day we’d be icing his ankle until he was willing to put weight on it. He loved walking Baby D and the neighborhood kids to school. Unfortunately, the walk was over a mile and uphill, so I only took him once a week. When I took our other dog Fey instead, I had to hide pillows and stuffed animals, lest Woofie eviscerate them in fits of pique.

Fortunately, Woofie loved to spend hours basking in the sun as well as playing. When it was cloudy outside, he’d whine at me, as if insisting I personally push back the clouds.

Despite his injury, Woofie was a super happy dog who loved every dog and person he ever met. He was ninety pounds of prancing love, and universally adored.

So of course he got cancer. When he was nine, a bump appeared on his muzzle, . A trip to the regular vet led to a trip to the cancer vet which led to X-rays and a biopsy.

“It’s a fibrosarcoma,” I told Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister, who was an oncologist.

She let out a sigh and said, “Fibrosarcomas are the badasses of the cancer world. Even if you remove it, it’s gonna come back.”

“Yeah, that’s what the vet oncologist told us. Woofie would lose part of his nose if they remove it, and we could try and keep the tumor in check with radiation, buy us some more time with him, but… What do you think we should do?”

“There’s no wrong answer.”

“I bet there is.”

“Really, there isn’t,” insisted the most judgmental person in the whole world.

“I know you think there is one, so just tell me.”

“You are not giving me enough credit, Autumn. You have to pick the option that seems best to you,” is all that Dr. Sis would say.

Which either showed personal growth or was good oncologist-speak, but also total bullshit. I knew there was a wrong answer. I knew she knew it. I just had to have the courage to face it.

While humans generally depend on our eyes, dogs take in the most information through their nose. Even canine hearing, while superior to human hearing, is not as vital to a dog as a sense of smell. Blind and deaf dogs have easily compensate with their amazing olfactory receptors, which can smell everything from a grain of cocaine to plummeting blood sugar.

Woofie was all about his muzzle. He poked dogs, humans, and cats with it to demand attention. He stole cookies, bread, and potstickers from the counter. He sniffed down every errant cheerio Baby D ever dropped in the house or the car. And he chewed everything from cow femurs to wooden Thomas the Tank Engine  train tracks. It was essential to his quality of life.

Radiation might give us more time with Woofie, but was it worth the pain he’d have to endure? Just because Woofie could take the pain didn’t mean it was fair to inflict it.

With a dog, you can’t explain the future or death (though maybe we can someday—some animals can communicate amazingly well with soundboards). You can’t ask dogs if they are willing to trade pain for more life. Dogs are creatures who live purely in the moment. How could I make any of Woofie’s moments more painful in order to postpone my own pain when he was gone?

I could not.

Andy, thankfully, agreed.

We opted for the quality of Woofie’s life over the length of it. Since we no longer had to worry about longterm damage, we loaded him up on pain meds and removed all activity restrictions.

Woofie pranced the kids to school every day. On the weekends, I let him chase the tennis ball on the school field as long as he wanted. We went to the dog park, mud and kennel cough be damned. We took him to the park to chase squirrels. At home, without any twinges in his hock to stop him, Woofie countersurfed relentlessly, stealing tortilla chips, a corncob, and a pizza. Of course we let him have everything (except the corncob, which he had tried before and thrown up).

The bump on his nose kept growing, but Woofie didn’t seem to notice.

He was flying high.
Literally.

Chocolate Thievery (#186)

A big family and not quite enough food can mess you up for life. My sisters and I learned to eat fast, hunching protectively over our plates. But no matter how fast we ate, Big Brother would finish first. Then he’d inevitably loom over us, asking, “Are you gonna eat that?”

If our mouths were too full to answer, he’d take that as a no.

Fork duels ensued. Continue reading Chocolate Thievery (#186)

Doggone In-laws (#177)

These yogurt-covered almonds don’t look like they produce a deadly gas, do they?

Our rescue dogs learned a lot of commands and tricks — sit, down, stay, roll over, etc. Their favorite command was  “vacuum.” Woofie, our Dane-Lab mix, would eat anything — even rocks. (He couldn’t digest rocks — or cabbage, or corn cobs — but he’d still eat them. And then throw them up, of course. Preferably on the nice carpet. Or my shoes.) Continue reading Doggone In-laws (#177)

Ghetto Elk (#144)

My husband talked me into a dog. A super social dog named Woofie. We loved him, but he kept running off to make new friends.

Which was how Andy talked me into a second dog. He picked another rescue, a female found wandering on the street of South Central Los Angeles when she was about four months old. We met her at an adoption fair on Sunday, signed papers, and waited another two days for a volunteer to deliver her after we cleared a background check.

My neighbor, an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department, was skeptical when I told him our new rescue’s history. “Why didn’t you get a purebred? One where you know where the dog has been and what kind of breed it is?”

“Like your German Shepherd?”

“Exactly.”

“Well, the rescue group did a temperament test on her, and they say she’s great with other dogs and cats. We even watched her playing with a buddy.”

“Yeah, but she’s a ghetto elk!” Continue reading Ghetto Elk (#144)

The Loneliest Number (#143)

Our new rescue dog loved everyone, but Woofie took special delight in youngsters. He didn’t care if they were canine or human. In fact, his greatest day at the dog park involved a pack of ten-year-old boys. The kids didn’t appear to have a dog, just a Frisbee they threw around.

Woofie stole it immediately. They chased him for a half-hour. He’d let a boy get about a foot away, then he’d feint right, dart left, and leave them in the dust.

One kid laughed and shouted, “That dog’s got moves!” Continue reading The Loneliest Number (#143)

Adventures at the Dog Park (#141)

Andy wanted a dog. We adopted a rescue named Woofie.

Woofie wanted to play with everything, including the cats. The cats did not want to play with Woofie. In vain would Woofie bark and prance around in front of them. The cats would only hide, hit, and hiss.

Woofie was sad. Until we discovered the Redondo Beach Dog Park. Continue reading Adventures at the Dog Park (#141)

Would You Like Some Dog With That Whine? (#135)

A few things dog owner's need. Not pictured: patience.
A few things a new dog owner needs. Not pictured: patience.

As soon as we knew we were getting a house with a yard, Andy and I got a dog. Yes, even though it would be a month before escrow closed, we got the dog. We thought he was a mellow half-Great Dane, half-Labrador Retriever. Woofie would let us pick him up, he knew how to sit, and he wasn’t nearly as crazy as some of my childhood dogs.

Woofie walked nicely on his leash and was housebroken. This was important, since our townhouse had no yard. Anytime Woofie had to pee, we had to take him out for a walk:

Woof (whining at the door): “…mmmm…”

Me (packing a box of dishes): “Dude, we went out twenty minutes ago.” Continue reading Would You Like Some Dog With That Whine? (#135)

No Way! A Blogger Award Nomination! (#93)

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I am postponing my promised post on the 10K Turkey Chase for an important announcement!

NO, I am NOT pregnant. Perish the thought. Also, stop thinking that every time a married woman says she has an important announcement. Continue reading No Way! A Blogger Award Nomination! (#93)