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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Post #7: Katie


We decided to buy a new dog soon after Spike died.  I wanted a dog like Spike, but knew that would be unlikely.  Especially since we did not even know for sure what breeds had mixed to create Spike.

So, I began to do a bit of research.  I asked some friends for recommendations and looked around on the fledging internet a bit.  The beagle had come up as a possible breed.  Kathy and I bought a book on beagles and read a bit about them.  We decided that a beagle would be great.  Who wouldn’t want Snoopy for a pet?

A search of the local paper revealed a family in Flour Bluff had some beagle puppies for sale.  We all piled into our minivan and headed across the bridge in search of the breeder’s home.

The puppies were adorable.  I mean really, have you ever seen a puppy that wasn’t?  There were several little balls of black and white fur romping in the grass and playing with each other.  Some seemed interested in us, and others were content to play with their siblings.

One puppy was a bit rounder than the others.  This little roly-poly puppy kept attacking my shoe laces.  Obviously, she had selected us for her new home.  And we decided that this was the little puppy that we wanted.

I’m not sure exactly how she came to be named “Katie.”  I am sure that I was relieved that this little girl would have a girl’s name.

We took Katie to the vet for her first check up and her first round of shots.  We discovered that there was a reason for that little fat tummy.  Katie was full of worms.

Katie was de-wormed and received all of the appropriate shots.  AND, we started her on heartworm prevention.  That was one lesson well-learned.  Of course we were still not experts in dog-care.  We were better.  But we still had a lot to learn.

Katie was such a tiny puppy. And we put her in a really big back yard.  We had bought her to be another “outside dog.”  Katie cried her first night in her new yard.  She didn’t have her mom or her siblings, and even the dog house we had for her was a bit big. 

At this point in my life, I wish that we had understood more about dogs (and my allergies) and that we had brought her into the house.  But I was worried about my asthma, and we were determined to make her an “outside dog.”  Katie did learn to be an outside dog.  She grew confident and comfortable in her new back yard.  Eventually, she was uncomfortable on those times that we allowed her to come into the house.
But still, I will always wonder about our decision.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Post #6: Old Vets and Mosquitoes


Our vet was elderly and was an old college friend of Kathy’s father, Bill.  We took Spike to see him once a year for her shots.  Since she never got sick, her only visits were these once a year trips.  He finally retired and sold his practice to a new, young vet who was just starting out.  The new vet inherited us along with the rest of the practice.
Spike was seven years old when we made our first visit to the new vet for the routine rabies shot.  This vet took a blood sample and a stool sample, and checked Spike out pretty thoroughly.  He took the samples and checked them under his microscope.  When he turned around, he asked us what we were giving Spike for heartworm prevention.
“What?  What’s that?” we wondered. 
The vet was surprised at our surprise.  This was a very preventable problems.  Spike had heartworms.  She had a lot of them.  The heartworms were transmitted to Spike by mosquitoes.  There are a lot of mosquitoes in the Coastal Bend of Texas.  The heartworms made their way into her blood vessels and began to multiply.  Heartworms can grow to be a foot long, and can block off the arteries leading to the heart. Over time, they can cause heart and lung problems, embolisms, and death. Spike did not seem to be showing many of the advanced symptoms.  She was not coughing or breathing heavily.  She did seem to have less stamina and had become less active.  However, since she was an "outside dog" we didn't really know much about her daily activities.  We did not pay that much attention to Spike, other than when we went out to play with her in the back yard.  And it was usually the boys who played with her, not Kathy or I.
There is a treatment for the heart worms, although treatment can be dangerous.  It was possible that Spike would not survive the treatment.  The vet warned us that even if the treatment were successful, Spike may not ever regain her full amount of energy.  The heartworms had already done a lot of damage to her heart and lungs.  Without treatment, Spike would get worse, have problems breathing, lose even more stamina, and die.
Spike’s chances of survival were not good.  We decided to give her every chance we could.  So we gave the vet permission to begin treatment.  She was administered Arsenic to kill the heartworms.  She received her first shot, and we were told to bring her home and keep her confined.
We set up a small space in the house and fenced Spike in.  We knew that she was not feeling well, as she never complained about being kept inside the house or being confined to the small space near our front door.  Spike became lethargic, but was also happy to be near us.  She did not seem to get better, though.  We took Spike in for her second shot of arsenic, just knowing that we were killing the heartworms, while hoping that we were not killing Spike.  Spike became more lethargic.
We decided to leave Spike with the vet after the third injection. She had a lot of arsenic in her, and she needed to be monitored closely.  This was the end of the treatment.  Spike should start getting better in a few days, but we were at a critical point.
Kathy stopped by the vet's office that night on her way home to check on Spike.  Kathy could get to the kennels in the back of the office, even though the staff had already gone home.
Kathy found Spike laying in her kennel, exhausted from her fight with the heartworms and the arsenic.  At first, Kathy thought she might be dead.  But Spike saw Kathy and became alert, wagging her tail, weakly.  Kathy spoke to her and petted her for a bit.  Spike returned the affection with a few kisses.  Then Kathy went home.
A couple of hours later the vet called.  Spike had died.  Kathy felt sure that Spike had roused herself from near death so she could tell Kathy good bye.
We were all sad.  I drove Kathy and the boys to the vet's office to pick up Spike.  The vet wrapped Spike in a towel that we had brought, and sent us home with her.  Kathy had called her father about Spike, and he met us at our house.  We picked out a spot in our back yard to bury Spike, and I started digging.  It was late, and dark, but the sand was soft. I had never buried a pet before, and wasn’t sure how deep to go.  My father-in-law was watching, so I wanted to be sure I did it right.  I just didn’t know what right was.  So I dug.  And I dug.  And I dug some more.  Kathy, Bill, Jason and John stood by watching me dig.
I was thinking “how deep should I go?  They bury people six feet.  I could probably do that, but that seems awful deep.”
I had gone down to the point that I was standing in a hole almost to my waist when I heard my father-in-law’s voice: “are you digging to China?” 
I knew it was time to stop.
We placed Spike gently in the bottom of the grave and covered her.  Kathy cried.  I cried. Jason cried.  John threw up.  We all said our goodbyes to Spike.
Spike was a wonderful, beautiful dog.  She was loyal, bright and she took better care of us than we took care of her.
Lessons learned:
  • Heartworm prevention is a must.
  • Dogs need fences.
  • The best dogs really do bite.  They protect their family whenever there is a perceived threat.  They aren’t vicious, just protective.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Post #5: Spike's Fence


Spike matured, she became family.  Of course, she was the family member who had to live in the back yard.  And she was the family member that was tied to a lead during the day and let loose at night.  We felt she needed to be allowed some freedom to run.  Night seemed to be a good time to let her loose, as she could watch our whole house, and she would not bother any of the neighbors.  We thought all was well, and everyone was happy with this arrangement.
Our neighbors eventually clued us in that they were not happy about Spikes nighttime wanderings.  We unleashed her in the evening with the belief that she would stay out of trouble.  She was such a good dog, after all.
Our neighbor complained of missing flip-flops, and another let us know subtly that it was Spike who was probably stealing our newspaper.  They were almost too subtle, for me.  I think like a guy, after all, and guys usually don’t pick up on “subtle.”  Just ask any woman who has tried to give a guy a hint about how their behavior annoys them.  Like a lot of men, it generally takes a direct statement for me to “get it.”  However, I finally figured out that it really was Spike who was causing all this mischief in our neighborhood.
Once this sunk in, we did the right thing and built a fence around our backyard.  Everyone was happier.  Even Spike was happier.  She no longer had to be tied up during the day.



Sunday, January 4, 2015

Post #4: Spike, the Protector

Spike grew a bit larger than we expected, but she ended up being a good size.  She was about three foot tall when on all fours. 

We decided that she probably had some kind of shepherd in her.  She was quite protective of the boys, and she never wandered too far from the house.

We decided that for the benefit of our neighbors, we needed to keep her tied up during the day.  We put Spike on a long lead with a swivel post.  She was adept at not letting herself get tangled up.

The boys would come home from school and take her off her lead to play with her.  Spike would follow them on their bicycle rides and other wanderings around the neighborhood.  Spike pretty much stayed by their sides all the time.  She even tried to protect the boys from themselves. 

One Saturday, the boys rode their bikes to a construction site.  There was a large pile of dirt at the site.  Being boys, their first thought was to play “King of the Mountain.”  A game in which each boy tried to be the only one on top of the dirt mound.  This was a game that involved pushing the other one down. 

Spike was not happy.  She got between the boys, she barked, and she started pulling the boys down the dirt mound by their pants legs.  The boys finally gave up and rode their bikes home. 

Our view of Spike was that she was a friendly dog who would never hurt anyone.  She saw herself as part of our family with the assignment of protecting the family from danger.

A new neighbor moved into the house next door.  They had a dog, too.  One evening we all happened to be in our respective backyards at the same time.  The neighbor’s dog had not yet learned the boundaries between the houses, since we had no fence.  The dog came into our back yard and growled at John.  The next thing I knew, Spike had bowled the intruder over and was standing over the neighbor’s dog with her mouth hovering over the other dog’s neck.

Our neighbor’s father seemed to be the only one not in shock.  He gently grasped Spike’s collar and pulled her back.  Thankfully she was compliant.

One afternoon the doorbell rang at our house.  Kathy was home alone.  She answered the door, and a UPS man was standing in the entryway with a package.  She signed for the package, but he did not move. 

“Is there anything else?” Kathy asked. 

“Yes mam,” he stammered, “would you please call off your dog?”
Spike was standing behind the UPS man, with a very attentive look and a low growl.  Kathy called Spike and she sat down, allowing the UPS man to leave.

These episodes taught me that any dog has the potential to bite.  It does not matter how friendly the dog is to its’ family, given the right circumstances the dog can go into protective mode and become violent. 

When someone asks if they can pet one of my dogs, I know longer just say “sure.”  I’m careful to check my dog’s current disposition before giving permission, and to give a warning to the person making the request to approach my dog carefully.