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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Post #23: PD the Hunter

Of all the hounds we have owned (three dachshunds and a beagle), I think PD has the best nose.

Henry was our hunter of possums, raccoons, squirrels, skunks, and birds.  PD was a just a little too small to chase the bigger animals, and he didn’t really have his heart into chasing squirrels and birds.

PD saved his nose and his hunting skills for nasty critters that tried to invade our house.  He could smell and track these critters even when we had no idea they were in the house with us.

We were living in a pier and beam house that was built sometime around 1919 or 1920.  Certain times of the year brought an invasion of large tree roaches.  They would come into our house in search of water, food, or a change in temperature.

In the mornings I would sit in the study and read the newspaper with PD and Henry on my lap or next to me.  Our routine in the evenings was for me to sit on the recliner, again, with PD and Henry close by, on my lap or next to me. 


One evening PD arose from the blanket with his nose in the air.  I watched as he sniffed the air in different directions.  Then, he zeroed in on the scent.  PD launched himself out of my lap and ran into the other room to the china hutch, his nose zig-zagging across the floor, tail held high, and his bark reverberating off the walls.

I was convinced some evil creature had come into the house.  What was it?  A snake?  A possum? A rat or mouse?  I followed PD to the hutch and got down on all fours.  I looked under the hutch, but couldn’t see anything.

PD turned and looked at me like I was stupid!  Then, coming to the conclusion that I really WAS stupid, he turned back to the china hutch and started barking while pawing at one corner.

“Do your job, Dad!  You have the hands.  Move this hutch.  It’s right here, under this corner!”  I got the message, so I moved the hutch.  And there it was, a really large tree roach, right where PD told me it would be.  PD chased the roach into the middle of the room and I stomped on it.

And so, the Great Roach Hunting partnership was born.  Now that I understood what was going on, I could be prepared for the next event.  If there was one.  After all, that could have just been a fluke.

Just in case there might be more hunts, I gave some thought to how to best deal with those large tree roaches.  They made a really big mess when squished.  I didn’t want to squish one on the throw rug.  We had a “grabber” in the kitchen.  It was about 3 feet long with a handle and trigger on one end.  The other end had a pair of suction cups attached to spring metal.  The cups were about a hand’s width apart when the grabber was at rest.  When I squeezed the trigger, the suction cups would be squeezed together.  I could use this to pick up objects off the floor or from high places.  I decided this might be useful if I could master it.
The tree roaches usually live in the large oak trees outside of our home.  But sometimes they venture inside either because it is too hot, too cold or too dry.  Pesticides can usually keep them out, but there are always times when even the pesticides won't work.

As it turns out, there were more hunting events.  The next time PD caught scent of a tree roach, he tracked it to its hiding place and I took off for the kitchen.  I grabbed my grabber while PD found the roach.  I’d move the furniture to expose the evil critter.  PD barked the roach into submission and I captured the roach, carrying it outside where I could squish him on the sidewalk.  PD followed me to make sure I ended the roach’s career of evil-doing.

Future events were very similar.  PD learned to chase the roaches toward me to make it easier for me to catch.  Sometimes they would try to make their escape up the wall, but I could get them with the grabber. 

The grabber was a great tool.  Unlike trying to pick up a roach with your fingers (disgusting), the roaches didn’t really seem to know it was there.  I could simply close in on them, and they wouldn’t try to escape.

It was fascinating to watch PD track a roach.  He would sniff around roach’s hiding place and let me know which side or corner of the object I needed to lift or move.  Sometimes I would move the object, a desk, hutch or bookcase, and the roach would run off in a crazy zig-zag motion. PD would track it, nose to the floor barking.

I could tell that he trusted his nose more than his eyes because he would follow the same path that the roach ran, rather than going directly to the next object that we both saw the roach scurry under.

Sometimes PD barked the offending roach into submission.  I would go into the room only to find the roach laying on its back, feet wriggling in the air, and PD barking loudly at the roach.  It looked as if PD were able to stun the roach, making it easier for me to pick up and dispose of.

Unfortunately, our hunting days are now behind us.  We have since moved into a home with a concrete foundation.  We no longer have tree roach intruders bent on doing evil things to us and our home.  I still have the grabber, just in case.  But for the most part PD and I spend uneventful evenings in front of the television watching the make believe adventures of others and only dreaming of our own exciting hunts.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Post #22: Survivors

One of the professional organizations I belong to was having its annual conference in Chicago.  Wife and I decided that this would make for a good vacation trip.  We could go by way of Iowa and visit my mother and sister along the way.
My mom had undergone some emergency surgery about six months earlier and was still recovering.  She had suffered from pancreatitis and a bowel blockage.  As a result she now was sporting an ostomy bag.  Mom seemed to be taking this in stride, although I think she felt like she smelled, and she really didn’t like the mess.

We packed up our Fifth-Wheel travel trailer and headed north.  The conference was being held the in the middle of October.  Since we live in Deep South Texas, all of our RV parks are open all year long.  The cold weather never lasts very long, and is something we never give any thought too.  I was surprised to learn that the reservations we made in Chicago were for the last week the park would be open until spring. 

We planned to stay a couple of days in Iowa for our visit.  We were surprised when the park owner kept asking us if we would be unhooking our trailer.  It sounded like she really didn’t want us to stay.  We assured her we would be unhooking, that we would be staying two nights, and that we might actually drive into town in our tow vehicle.  She relented and assigned us a spot.

My mother, sister and two nieces made the drive out to visit us at the park.  I enjoyed the time I was able to spend with my family.  Henry made himself the darling of the family.  He got along with everyone.  Henry made a special effort to make my mom feel good.  He curled up by her side and let her know that he loved her and thought she was special.  Mom was surprised by the affection and acceptance Henry gave her.  She was expecting to be avoided by the dogs because of her ostomy bag.

We left Iowa and moved into our RV space just outside of Chicago.  This was a nice, quiet park, with close access to the trains that would be taking me into town and to my conference.

Our normal routine when we camp is to take our dogs out several times a day to walk around the RV Park.  Everyone gets a little exercise.  We get to see what other RV’s look like.  And the dogs have a chance to become familiar with their new, but temporary, surroundings.  Oh, and the walks help ensure that no one makes a mess on the floor of the trailer.

One of the things we grabbed when Wife’s father sold his grocery store was a roll of produce bags.  These bags make great “swear-prevention bags.”  We stuff a couple into our pockets whenever we go for walks and are ready to scoop up our dog’s deposits.  Keeping the pathways clean helps keep the language in the park clean.  When people don’t unknowingly step in the deposits, they don’t have to start saying nasty words.  Just our little contribution to society.

One evening, PD started throwing up after our walk.  He did this several times, and kept vomiting until nothing was coming up.  We knew something was seriously wrong with PD.  Here we were 1300 miles from our vet, it was after 7:00 p.m., and PD was sick.  We had Wi-Fi internet at the park and I was able to do a search for nearby vets, wondering if there was any way we could talk a vet into seeing us after hours.

I found a vet nearby.  Not only was the vet close to us, but it was a vet that was only open from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.  This was a true blessing!

We rushed PD to the clinic and the vet checked out PD.  She took him back and too X-Rays.  The vet complimented PD for being so compliant.  She told us that she placed him on his back and he lay perfectly still.  We didn’t tell her that he was waiting for his tummy rub.

The X-Ray showed no blockage and nothing unusual in his stomach or intestines.  She could see nothing that might be hurting him.  The vet gave PD a shot to stop the nausea and sent us home.

PD was lethargic.  Otherwise, he was OK that night.  The shot wore off in the morning and PD vomited again.  This time he threw up a peach pit!

We called the vet and she explained that the pit would not have shown up on the X-Ray because it had the same density as PD’s soft tissue.  The pit could have traveled deeper into his digestive tract, producing pain and requiring surgery, assuming we would have got him back to the vet on time.  The pit could have killed him.

I figure, this was PD’s third miracle.  Another opportunity for death to claim this little guy, and death missed him again!  His vomiting and bloody stool as a too-young puppy, his survival from eating a Sago Palm seed, and now the peach pit.

Since this event, Wife and I have often thought how stopping the vomiting was probably the wrong treatment.  PD’s ability to regurgitate his stomach’s contents once again saved him.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Post #21: Timmy Fell in the Well ...

PD is a bright dog. 

Before we even adopted PD, we wondered how our new puppy was going to let us know he needed to go outside.  Well, PD picked up on house training really quickly.  And he picked up on training Wife and I to understand him really quickly, too.

PD would go to the door and bang on it with his paw.  He used this technique to go outside.  And he used it to be let into any room in the house.  Obviously just pushing on a partly open door that swings away from him is a cinch.  But, what about those doors that have to be pulled back toward you to open?

PD learned that if the door was not completely shut, his pawing on the door will open the door without our help.  He has two techniques for this.  One is to paw the outside of the door to make it close and bounce back open.  The other technique is to insert his paw or nose into the opening between the door and the door jamb, and pull the door open.  He’s little, so it doesn’t take much of an opening for him to get through the door.  Sometimes, PD will use a combination of these techniques.  First pushing a door to get it to bounce out a little, and then using his nose to pull it open far enough for him to enter.

If PD can’t open the door on his own (he’s too short to reach the doorknob), then he will recruit someone to help him.  If someone is in the room, he makes eye contact.  If eye contact isn’t enough, or if there is no one else in the room with him, PD will bark until someone comes to check on him.  Then, he’ll paw at the door so that we understand.

These behaviors led me to believe he was smart and a good communicator.  But at the same time, they were ego-centric, self-serving behaviors.  One incident, however, really made me believe in his brilliance and maybe even that he understands what someone else wants and is willing to accommodate them.

One spring day, I had some work to do around our old house.  I had to climb up to the second story to do a bit of work on a window.  This window faced the back of the house.  There was a very narrow ledge for me to stand on beneath the window.

I put the ladder against the ledge, but did not extend the ladder very far past the ledge.  I climbed the ladder got off onto the ledge and did my repair. 

When I turned around to get down, the ledge suddenly shrunk.  It was much smaller than when I had climbed up.  And the ladder was too short.  I didn’t have room to lean over to grasp the ladder.  It was a lightweight aluminum ladder.  And the ground was uneven.  And the wind had come up, threatening to blow me and the ladder to the ground.

I simply did not think that I could get down the ladder by myself.  I needed someone at the other end to hold the ladder for me.

I looked into the backyard.  Henry was laying under a tree chewing on a stick.  PD was sniffing around the back yard to see what critters had been visiting.

I called for Wife.  No answer.  I called again, a bit louder.  No response.  I may have called a few more times.  And my voice got louder, with a bit of panic in it.  Wife was deep in the house and could not hear me.

I thought.  I knew it was crazy.  All those Lassie movies?  No dog really would go running off to find a family member if you fell in the well.  Would they?  Well, nothing else was working.

So, I called out “PD! Henry!”  PD looked over and ran toward the ladder.  Henry continued to be involved with his stick.  PD looked up at me, with his head cocked to one side, and his ears pricked forward. 

“Go get momma!” I said, in desperation.  “Go get mamma!” I repeated.  PD ran over to the back door and ….


and ….


… he barked!  PD started barking and barking.  Wife could not hear my voice when she was in the house.  But she DID hear PD’s bark.  Wife came to the back door to see what PD was barking at. 

Finally!  Wife was at the door and she was close enough to hear me.  I called down to her and asked her to help me get down, which she did.

Brilliant, Brilliant dog!!!

Oh, and Henry?  Henry was still chewing on his stick.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Post #20: PD Gets a Sibling

PD survived his too close encounter with poisoning, and continued to thrive.  As he got older, his attachment to me became stronger.  We had started leaving PD at the house, rather than taking him to work because he was outgrowing the little pen we had made for him.  PD started to demand my attention most of the time that I was home.  When I could no longer walk across the room without PD grabbing my pants leg, I decided it was time for PD to have a brother or sister.

Wife agreed that PD needed another dog in the house.  We felt guilty about leaving him home alone all day and thought another dog would keep him from becoming so needy.  We also hoped that another dachshund might help to teach PD the ways of doggy hood.

PD, by the way, is a short-haired red dachshund who was supposed to be a “mini.”  We believed he was a mini, until we learned otherwise.  PD is actually a “tweenie.”  He is longer than most mini’s, and is too small to be considered to be a full – sized dachshund.  PD’s fur is exceptionally smooth.  It is softer than any other dog we have owned.  The down side of this is that it is difficult to resist cuddling him.

PD was about seven months old when we started looking.  Our first stop was the local animal shelters.  We found Jelly at the dog shelter in Rockport.  Jelly was a mottled black and tan short haired dachshund.  She was about two years old.  The pound named her Jelly because of her coloring.  Her deep black fur looked almost purple.  Her shiny black coat contrasted with lighter black markings, making her look like grape jelly.  When we met at her at the local shelter we could see that she something wrong with her skin.  She wasn’t just mottled, she was also losing some fur.  The shelter assured us that Jelly had been checked over by their vet and that the skin condition was no big deal.

We decided to adopt Jelly.  They said we could take her home overnight without adopting her to be sure.  I was confident that there was nothing that would prevent us from keeping her.  So, we paid the fees and took Jelly home.  There was no real tension between Jelly and PD that first night.  Jelly slept in our bed, but we kept the two dogs separated, until they got better acquainted. 

The next day, we took Jelly to get checked out by our vet.  We found out that the minor skin condition was mange.  We started Jelly on the ointments and pills and brought her back home.  Then we changed the sheets, changed our clothes, took baths, scrubbed PD, scrubbed everything Jelly might have laid down on, and hoped for the best.

I don’t know if it was the added tension in the house because we now knew that Jelly had mange, or if Jelly was feeling bad, if she just had a possessive nature, or if she was reacting to PD’s possessiveness of me.  But the tension between PD and Jelly grew.  The honeymoon period was over by the next afternoon.  Jelly snapped at PD over a toy and the two of them got into a growling, barking, snapping scuffle. 

Wife and I decided the pairing just wasn’t going to work.  It was with much regret and some sorrow that we made the decision to return Jelly to the shelter.  We had really only given her three days.  But, in the end we were worried about PD’s safety.  I took Jelly back, told them they could keep the adoption fee as a donation, handed over her prescriptions and instructed them on her treatment for mange.  I hope Jelly was cured of her mange.  And I hope she found a new forever home.  I am sorry that we were not the home we wanted to be for her.

And so the search for a sibling continued.

We found a dachshund breeder outside of Sinton, Texas.  We drove out to the breeder’s home and saw a herd of dachshunds running around behind a large fenced in enclosure.

This time, we brought PD with us, so he could help us in making our decision.

After visiting for a while, the breeder told us about Henry.  Henry was three months old.  He was a short-haired black and tan dachshund.  Henry had already been adopted by a family with a ten year old boy.  The boy did not treat Henry well, so the family brought him back.  He was getting old for a puppy and becoming less adoptable.  This sounded perfect to us.  Henry would already be well past the early puppy stages and had been among other dachshunds long enough to know the ways of the doggy world. 

The breeder brought Henry out and put him on the enclosed porch with us.  We brought PD out, and put him on the porch.  We continued to talk to the breeder while PD and Henry first got to know each other, and then sort of ignored each other.  Wife decided that the two of them got along well.

We took Henry home.

Henry was a really sweet, respectful puppy.  He was lovable and never met a human he didn’t like.  It took a bit of adjustment for the two dogs to get to know each other, but there was no snapping or fighting.  Whatever signals PD was sending out, Henry seemed to be capable of reading and respecting. 

After our encounter with Jelly, we were thrilled when days passed and PD and Henry were still getting along.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Post #19: PD The Miracle Dog

I often refer to PD as our “miracle dog.”  He has survived a number of illnesses that should have killed him, but didn’t.  His first week with us was touch and go as PD battled vomiting and diarrhea to the point of bloody stools.  But, he got past that and continued to grow and to thrive.

His next survival story happened when PD was about three months old.  Wife and I were in the habit of taking him for a walk to the end of the block.  He was still quite little, and so a walk from our corner to the other and back was a really big adventure.  We would usually start these walks by letting him nose around the trees and grass in our yard.  We hoped he take care of his business in our lawn so we wouldn’t have to stop to pick it up in someone else’s.

On this day, PD began sniffing around our Sago Palm plant.  He picked up one of the large seeds and began chewing on it.  He looked kinda cute with that big palm seed in his mouth.  He carried the palm seed with him on the walk, and ate most of it.  We didn’t give the incident much thought.

About thirty minutes later, PD began vomiting.  He continued to vomit until there was nothing coming up but foam.  It was after 6:00 in the evening, and our vet was closed for the day.  We were scared.

I started searching online for help.  I learned that Sago Palms are poisonous to dogs.  And I learned that there was a Pet Poison Helpline (PPH)!  PPH had a veterinary hot-line that I could access for $35.  I called! 

I talked to a tech and explained what was happening.  She consulted with the on-call vet.  The tech came back on the phone and advised me to get PD to the nearest pet hospital as soon as possible.  Sago Palms can be deadly, and I had little time to spare.  Every minute would count against PD’s life. 

The nearest emergency vet was 45 minutes away.  We loaded PD into the car and headed for Corpus Christi, breaking a few speed limit laws on the way.  A few?  Probably all of them.

The hospital took PD in, put him on an IV and did whatever they could to try to detoxify PD and keep him alive.  In the meantime, they sent us home.  That was a very long drive home.  And it was a very long night.

We drove back to the hospital the next morning, scared but always hopeful.  PD had survived.  They brought him out to us, and he had a green elastic bandage around one arm, where the IV had been.  The vet told us that we were very lucky.  It helped that PD had started vomiting as early as he did, and was able to empty his stomach.  We were told that the poison is hard on the liver and kidneys, but they did not think there was any permanent damage to those organs.
      (The Sago Palm is pictured here, partially hidden by the car)
This is what I learned from the Pet Poison Helpline: The seed of the Sago Palm is considered to be the most toxic part of the Sago Palm.  Often, symptoms will begin within 15 minutes of consumption, but may be delayed for several hours.  Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of motor control and seizures. Severe liver failure can happen within two or three days.  Treatment is recommended to be aggressive and should involve decontamination.  The survival rate is about 50% with aggressive decontamination.


Sago Palms are beautiful plants and are apparently quite valuable, especially ones of the size we had.  We decided that PD is more valuable to us than the plant.  The plant was dug up and given away shortly after our close call.