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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Post #36: Frank Comes Home

I’d stopped at Pet Smart on my way into town to pick up Frank at the Adopt A Pet shelter.  I picked up an inexpensive leash and a collar.  After completing the paperwork, I attached his rabies tag to the collar, and put the collar around his neck.  I loaded Frank into my car.  I threw a towel across my lap and took off.  It wasn’t until I was a mile down the road that it occurred to me that I didn’t know what kind of travel buddy Frank was.  Would he get motion sickness?  Would he cry all the way home?

Fortunately, Frank was pretty good.  He did not cry, and he did not get car sick.

He was curious, however.  Frank walked across his seat and onto my lap.  He put his front paws on my chest and stared me right in the face, sniffing my nose and mouth.  That would have been a little annoying if I had been sitting at home on the couch.  Driving 70 miles an hour down the highway with his face that close to mine was scary.  And dangerous.

It only took five or six tries to keep him out of my face.  And I even managed to stay in my own lane.

Frank next ventured into the back seat.  Then he hopped back up onto the center console and down onto the passenger seat.  Frank jumped to the floor and found some crumbs to lick up.  He discovered that he could squeeze between that tiny space between the car’s firewall and the console where the gearshift is.  Frank ended up on the driver’s side floor investigating the gas pedal, the brake pedal, and my feet … Another scary and unsafe predicament. I managed to grab Frank and settle him back on my lap.

We made the two hour trip home without having a wreck, and Frank began to settle in to my life.

It seems that PD was not really very interested in having another brother.  In fact, he was downright opposed to the idea.  We had not discussed this with PD, had not asked his opinion, and didn’t even give him a warning that something like this was about to happen!

PD owned the house.  He owned the back yard, and he owned Kathy and me.  His “ownership” was part of the reason I had felt we really needed a second dog.  PD was becoming bossy and demanding.  He needed a little competition in his life.

Frank remained respectful and submissive.  He quickly learned to avoid PD whenever PD was in a possessive mood.  The signs were there.  We knew we needed to be careful in our introduction of Frank to the family.

We decided that for the first night, we would put up the baby gate in the doorway leading from the kitchen to the landing for the stairs.  We would shut the door leading to the dining room, and let Frank sleep on the dog bed in the kitchen.

Frank didn’t like that idea.  He wanted to sleep with us.  Even if that meant getting growled at or nipped by PD.

Frank barked and cried.  Even though our bedroom was close, we managed to ignore him.  Then he got quiet.  Good!  He knows he is supposed to sleep in the kitchen. All was quiet.

Then we heard scratching on our door.  What?

Frank had figured out how to use all four paws to climb the baby gate.  He had to have climbed it like a ladder.

It was clear that we could not contain Frank.  We began to understand why Frank had been found on the streets.  He was a smart dog.  When he wanted to be somewhere else, he was going to figure out how to get there.

We let Frank in to our bedroom.  We knew this would happen eventually, that we would have both dogs in bed with us.  We just didn’t expect it to happen the first night.  PD was not happy.  However, after some tense moments, we were able to figure out the sleeping arrangements.  PD slept between Kathy and me.  Frank slept on the bed next to Kathy, close to the edge. 

Frank may be respectful and submissive.  But, he is also persistent.  Apparently, persistence gets rewarded in our house.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Post #35: Frank

After losing Henry, we had decided to be a one-dog family.  That discussion did not last long.  PD became just as demanding of our time and attention as he had been before Henry.  I began looking at dachshund rescues online, and soon had Kathy looking at them, too.  I started showing cute, adorable dachshund puppies to Kathy.  She insisted that we not jump into a second dog.  I sort of agreed and quit pulling up pictures of dogs that needed homes.

During this time, I had been teaching in Victoria for about a year.  We had bought a small house in Victoria, and I continued to commute from Aransas Pass.  I spent a few days a week in Victoria, and a few days a week in Aransas Pass.

I tried to be strong, honest!  I could see that getting a second dog would be more of a burden for Kathy, than me.  If Kathy didn’t want another dog, we would just deal with PD’s demanding ways.

The funny thing is, I had kind of stopped looking online for rescue dogs.  So it came as a real surprise when Kathy emailed me a link to a dachshund that was in Victoria’s Adopt-A-Pet rescue center.  I was in Victoria at the time.  Kathy had actually asked me to look at the picture of a young dachshund in need of a home!  And he was nearby.

He was a beautiful, but sad looking guy.  This was the first time I had ever seen a Piebald Dachshund.  I’d heard about dapples, double dapples, and brindles.  But, I’d never heard of a Piebald.  This little guy was a miniature dachshund who was supposed to be about two years old.  He was brown and white.  Or is that red and white?  His whole head was brown.  The rest of him was white with large patches of brown.  His head looked over-sized, because the rest of his body was so small.  The shelter said that a man had found this dog wandering the streets.  It was obvious that he had been on his own for a while.  He was so malnourished.  The shelter had him for only a couple of weeks, and he had managed to put a little bit of weight back on.  But he still had a long way to go.

His eyes looked so sad.  You could tell he was lost and confused and needed a new home.  No wonder Kathy sent me the link.

I went to the shelter to see this dog.  The shelter workers were very kind and seemed to really care about the dogs.  But they were crowded.  The dog I had gone to see was in a wire cage stacked on top of two other cages with dogs.  The room was filled with loud barking.

The worker introduced me to “Frank.”  We got to go into the staff break room, where things were quieter.  I sat on the floor, and they placed Frank on the floor nearby.  I ignored him for a while, talking to the staff, to give Frank a chance to adjust to my presence.  He walked around the room a bit, and eventually became interested in me.

Frank sniffed me, and then climbed into my lap.  He was a very polite and respectful gentleman.  I fell in love with Frank right away.  But the decision was not just mine.  I had an out of town appointment that would take me away for a day.  I decided to use that as my cooling off period.

I called Kathy and gave her my impression of Frank.  We both agreed to think about adopting him over night.  I took care of my work and headed back home the next day.  Kathy and I talked some more about Frank.

We decided to bring him home!

I stopped at the Adopt-A-Pet center and completed the paperwork, paid the fees, and took possession of Frank.

“Why did you name him Frank?” I asked after the third time they told me I could change his name.  The worker looked a little sheepish as he explained “because he’s a wiener dog, and he looked like …”

“A frankfurter” I completed.  Well I’m not happy with the origins of his name, but after owning a Henry, Frank just seemed right.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Post #34: Pack Animals

Seeing the dogs at the Buda races reminded me of the beauty of the Pack.
It is always amazing to watch two dogs hunting together.  Several times Henry would start the chase against a possum that dared cross his back yard.  PD would join him as soon as he heard Henry’s first bark.  The two dogs would act as a team to herd the possum into an impossible predicament, and then begin the attack.

Henry and PD would take turns lunging at the possum, wearing it down until one or the other could make a debilitating bite.

When I heard the hunting sound of my two dachshunds I would grab my gloves and whatever tool I thought might be useful to either save or dispatch whatever unfortunate critter they were hunting down.

Usually, I arrived too late, or was too slow to save the possums.  Then my job was to keep the dogs from bringing their prize into the house or eating it.  I learned from these experiences that fleas are extremely fickle.  As soon as the blood stops flowing, they abandon ship and look for a new source of food.  This is usually the dogs that killed the critter, or the man that stooped over to pick it up.  Everybody got a bath after a critter – kill.

One evening, I arrived home from work to the sounds of barking dachshunds.  It was after sundown and the backyard was dark.  Kathy stood near the back fence with a flashlight in her hands.  A couple of lawn timbers had been stacked up near the fence.  PD and Henry were taking turns lunging and barking at a small opening between the fence and the timbers.  “There’s a baby possum wedged in there!” Kathy told me.  “You’ve got to get the dogs in the house so we can free it!”

“Let me see, first.” I said while taking the flashlight from Kathy.

As I shone the light on the timbers, PD darted in and then ran back to the house.  I had just commanded the dogs to “get back, wait!” and was really proud that they were obeying me.  Usually, the dogs just ignore me when I tell them to do something and food or prey are nearby.

“He’s got it!  PD’s got the possum!” Kathy was shouting.  I told her, “No, I don’t think so.  I think I see it right there.  Let me move this log.”

“No! He’s gone in the house!”

“I think I see it right there.”

I moved the lawn timber and found … nothing.

“Hmmm   … well, maybe he did get it I said, doubtfully.”  Why do we always doubt our spouses?

This was unusual.  PD usually stuck to roaches, when it came to hunting.  Possums were Henry’s territory.  While PD would help Henry with the hunt, it was always Henry that made the kill.  If the creature looked dangerous at all, it was always Henry who was on the front line of barking the danger away and showing his teeth.

PD was the second line of defense.  He would hang back, close to the house, or close to me, and do his ferocious barking from a safe distance.

So, I really didn’t believe that PD had grabbed the possum.

I walked up the steps, through the back door, and into the kitchen.

PD was standing in the middle of a gruesome murder scene.  As PD savagely shook the possum back and forth, Henry sat calmly in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room.  He gave PD an approving look.  It seemed as if Henry had become the proud instructor watching his star pupil perform the flawless slaughter of his first victim.

PD’s head shook violently back and forth.  The possum was flung from side to side.  Droplets of possum blood sprayed across the room.  Blood was splattered on the floor, the cabinets, the stove and the counter tops.

I have no doubt that if PD had been a taller dog there would have been blood dripping from the ceiling.

I ordered PD to “Drop it!”  Thankfully, he did.  I picked up the possum and carried it outside as Kathy was coming up the steps.

“You don’t want to go in there.” I advised. 
Of course, she had to go in.  She had to see the mayhem and the gore left behind.
Henry had done his job well.  He had trained PD, and PD was now a full-fledged hunter.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Post #33: Wiener Dog Races

Before the wild roller coaster that made up Henry’s last few days, we had arranged to go to Buda, Texas with some friends.  The Buda Lion’s club sponsors Wiener Dog races every April (Buda Lions Club Wiener Races).  Wife and I had never gone to the races, but we had seen some of the videos on YouTube.  We thought the races looked like a lot of fun, and we had promised ourselves that we would go one day.  When our friends invited us to join them, we decided that was a perfect opportunity to see the races in person.

Now, however, we were grieving over the loss of Henry.  We talked about whether we should go.  Would it be too painful to see all of those other dachshunds?  Would our depression keep our friends from enjoying the festival?  We decided that going to Buda and hanging around a lot of other dachshund lovers would probably be restorative.  So, we loaded up PD, hooked onto our Fifth Wheel, and headed North.

Buda is a really nice town.  How could it not be?  Cabela’s has one of their giant stores in Buda.  Buda also has crowded streets when the Wiener Dog festival is taking place.  People arrive from all over the US to participate and watch.  We set up camp in an RV park the afternoon before the races.  The next morning we followed the traffic to the race grounds.  We managed to find a parking spot not too far from the campground, and walked with PD onto the grounds.

There were rows and rows of tents with vendors on the grounds.  So, along with the races, you could meander through the crowds and buy nearly anything imaginable that was related to dachshunds or dogs, including dachshunds.  There were one or two rescue shelters that had brought in homeless dachshunds for adoption.

We found that there are more dachshund-related trinkets, T-Shirts, and must-haves than we had ever imagined.  We wandered from tent to tent, looking at all of the cool doxie-items.  Wife came away with a pair of dachshund earrings.

Everything was dog-friendly, of course.  There were water dishes at nearly every vendor’s tent.  A few vendors even had kiddie pools.  And there were dogs taking full advantage of the cool water.  Even though this was a wiener dog race, the Lions were diversity-minded.  Other breeds were allowed onto the grounds.  There were some doxie-wannabies mixing with the dachshunds.  At least one Lab claimed that he “identified as” a dachshund.  But when he got near a pool, genetics took over, and he clambered in, dunking himself in the cool water, and then giving himself a hearty shake.  All of the people standing around were understanding, since they were "dog people."  And some of us actually enjoyed the spray as it was a hot day and the mist flying off the dog was cooling.

The races?  Oh yeah.  We did go and watch the wiener dog races.  We did not enter PD.  I felt like we would have needed to at least practice with him before sitting him down in front of a large group of people and asking him to run a straight line.

We watched several heats, and the racing dogs were a joy to see.  The race track had stands on one side, and an earthen bank on the other.  We were in the stands, and could see the folks on the other side sitting on their blankets, or standing against the fence next to the race track.

The race was held on a straight grassy track, with white lines to designate each dog’s lane.  On one side of the field were the starting gates.  On the other end were the motivators.  The dog’s owners were standing behind the finish line holding out squeaky toys and yelling for their dogs to come to them.  There were women and burly men shouting out in baby talk, giving encouragement, clicking clickers, and squeaking toys.  They could use anything they thought would motivate their dogs down the field, except for food.  No treats were allowed.

People were lined up along the sidelines on both sides, some hanging over the fences, ready to cheer along their favorite dachshund. 

The dogs were placed in the starting gates.  The crowd got quiet.  The announcer readied the runners.  At last the signal was given and the race was started.  The signal was a verbal “Go!” since a gun being fired may have frightened some of the dogs into running the other way, or just cowering in the starting box.  The gates opened and the dogs raced out onto the course.

Well, most of them did.  A couple decided it was too hot, so they just lay down in the shade of the starting gate.

People in the stands and along the sidelines began cheering for their favorite runners, or for all of the dogs in general.  Some of the dogs thought the cheering meant they should go over and pay a visit.  So, instead of running straight ahead, they wandered off to the side to say hello to all of their fans.

Then there were a couple who thought they had found new playmates.  So these dachshunds would start up a game of chase.  Running as fast as you can was the idea of the race, so that part was OK.  But chasing each other in circles didn't work too well for running a race.

Above the crowd’s noise you could hear the dachshund trainers and owners shouting their baby talk, trying to get their dog’s attention: “Come on sweetie-pie <squeak, squeak>” “come here sugar-wugar” “that’s my witto baby <squeak, squeak>.”  These noises and gestures were coming from both the women and the men.  Somehow, the women looked more natural doing the baby-talk, squeaky-toy thing than the men did.

Yes, most of the dogs did make it to the finish line, and there were First, Second, and Third place Wieners.

But if all of the dogs had behaved themselves and acted like true racing hounds, the Buda Wiener Dog Races would not be nearly as much fun!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Post #32: Henry's Back Again

Henry turned seven, and the memories of his back injury were fading, but still in place.  We had installed ramps everywhere we could think of.  We were 80% successful in getting Henry to use the ramps.  Unfortunately, 80% was 20% too little.

We saw the jump when it happened.  But there was nothing we could do to stop him.

He jumped off the couch, and Henry had trouble using his hind legs.

We gave him his anti-inflammatory pain medication and put him in his crate.

The next morning we took Henry to the vet.  We explained that Henry went down on his back.  We had followed the procedures we’d been instructed too, but Henry wasn’t any better.

We had seen this coming on.  Henry had been less active, and he looked like he was in pain.  When the big jump happened, we knew he had done significant damage.

Henry got an injection and we went back home, placing Henry back in his crate.  The next day, he still wasn’t walking and his hind feet were “knuckling under.”

We went back to the vet’s office. 

The vet examined Henry and put him on the floor.  Henry made a liar out of us by walking.

Relieved, we took Henry home again, and put him back in his crate.  Maybe he would survive another back injury, after all!

I carried Henry outside later that day so he could take care of business.  Henry could not stand.  I supported his back end with a towel and helped him get relief.  But I was worried.  He was supposed to be getting better, not worse.

Henry did not like sleeping thin the kitchen by himself, so I brought his crate into our bedroom.  He still was not happy with the sleeping arrangements, but at least he was close to us.

During the night, Henry wet his bed.  He no longer had control over his bladder.  He had no feeling.  No control of anything that happened below the waist.  Henry tried to lick clean the mess he made, which really made us sad.

He cleaned up Henry and his bed.  Wife and I had a long talk.  Our lifestyle and house were not conducive to a wheelchair dog.  Wife’s back problems prevented her from being able to carrying Henry outside.  I had started a new job and was commuting to my new work, often staying away two to three nights a week.  I would be no help.  At this point, we could not afford another back surgery.  And Henry seemed to be more impaired than he had been the first time.  Was it time to ask the vet to put Henry down?  We didn’t know.  We needed to talk to the vet.

We called the vet and let him know what was happening.

We picked up Henry and a towel and took him back to the vet’s office.  Wife and I held it together pretty well on the drive over.  We did pretty well in the waiting room.

The vet invited us to the back, and we carried Henry to one of the examining tables.  The vet took time to explain what he was going to do and what would happen as the injection took effect.  We were asked if we would like to stay, or if we would rather wait in the waiting area.  We chose to stay with Henry.

The vet prepared the syringe and tried to find a vein in Henry’s front paw.  Henry lifted his paw away.  He tried again, and Henry avoided the needle again.

The vet explained that he would make the injection in Henry’s rear paw.  It would take a little longer, but Henry would not be aware of the injection, since he had no feeling in that part of his body.

I held Henry in a hug as the needle went into his hind paw.  Almost immediately I felt Henry slip away.  His warm body just kind of melted away, and I lay him on the table.

Henry was gone.

And our tears arrived in buckets.  Wife and I were both overcome with grief.  We couldn’t hold our tears back, or our sobs. 

This was perhaps the hardest thing either of us had ever had to do.  I have no doubt that others in the waiting room heard us.

The vet verified that Henry was dead.  Then he wrapped him in our towel and handed Henry to me.

Once we got home, I buried Henry under the overhanging branches of the mulberry tree.

This was his favorite spot during the spring.  He would spend hours here eating mulberries.  I felt this was a fitting spot for Henry’s remains, allowing him to rest forever under the one spot I tried so hard to deny to him.

Wife and I were devastated.  We both continue to feel sad every time we think about Henry.  Because he was a dog and not a child, we had to make a terrible decision.  One based on practicality, not desire.  Wife lacked the strength to carry him in and out of the house. I was away in Victoria several days a week.  Our house was built in such a way that Henry could not have had access to the yard he loved without our help.

Wife and I grieved over Henry’s loss.

When I brought Henry into the backyard to bury him, we let PD spend some time sniffing the body.  I think he understood that his brother was gone.  I’m not sure that he mourned Henry’s loss.  We didn’t notice a difference in his behavior.

I’m sure PD did notice, however, that he was getting a lot more attention.

RIP, Henry

2004 - 2011