In Appreciation of the Veterinarian

I recently read a blog post shared by a friend that was written by a veterinarian about what it’s like to be a vet. It really moved me to read her perspective and reminded me of my experience with my vets and Sugar, so I wanted to share a little tribute to the vets at the practice where I have had Sugar (and Arthur) for the last few years.

I’m not sure if they would be comfortable with my naming them, so I’ll call them Dr. A and Dr. B: Dr. A being the owner of the practice and Dr. B being the vet who joined the practice maybe 2 years ago as a new veterinarian. It has turned out that the dogs and I hit it off with Dr. B and started seeing only her when possible. She always fawned over my Sugar, which of course makes any dog owner feel great, but Sugar was never overtly friendly – very loving, yes, but quiet and not one to come running to you, so having Dr. B love on my dog was special. And then when we got Arthur, OH BOY, she totally fell for him. I brought him in for the first time and she literally gave me a round of applause for adopting a senior English bulldog.

So anyway, I saw Dr. A when Sugar started really going downhill and it was starting to occur to me that the end of her life was approaching. I was going through quite a lot of stress in September and this was a particularly horrific weekend. I cried the entire time Sugar and I were at the vet. The tech came in for intake information, and I had to begin with, “Sorry, I’m going to have to cry through this whole conversation.” Dr. A came in – with a shadowing student, of course… poor dude – and I cried and cried, and he said, we’ll take care of her! And you! It’ll all be OK.

So when the final day came for Sugar, we had the appointment with Dr. B. She came in and was clearly so sad for us. I could see she was taking deep breaths and trying not to fall apart, and she did an amazing job of being respectful and caring for us. I couldn’t have done it nearly so well. And I just had to hug her when it was over. When I brought Arthur in for something else soon after, she was sitting on the floor with him and said she was sorry about Sugar again, and that she’d gone home and cried and drank that night.

Dr. A even found me on LinkedIn after the day with Sugar to see how I was doing. These vets are one of the reasons I decided to stay in this town even before Sugar died, and now I’m even more glad I did.

It’s Sugarbeagle, Charlie Brown

This is a tribute to a great dog. A beagle is a happy dog who loves food. And Sugar is that. After 10 years with this sweet, quirky dog, I will say goodbye to her Thursday. As happens with beagles, she had experiences with slipped discs in her back, and this time with her age the flareup has done her in. The timing was terrible, of course, but when is it a good time?

20131022_221428I adopted Sugar from BREW Beagles (Beagle Rescue, Education, and Welfare) in 2003, a year after I graduated college, because I’d had a beagle mix that I absolutely loved growing up and I also wanted to rescue. I drove with Alana all the way from DC to Norfolk to pick her up from her foster mom. She was shy, but very pretty – a red and white color I hadn’t seen before in a beagle. I brought her home to the apartment I shared with my ex husband, from which she moved with the two of us into another apartment in DC and then into a purchased house in Pennsylvania, and then soon after it was just Sugar and me, vagabonds, living in Charleston with Andrea, spending the summer in Michigan, living at my parents’ house, and finally moving into the condo that I bought on my own, then into the Sherpa’s house, and then this final move into another house with just me again.  We’ve been through a lot, the two of us. She is my girl.

Sugar is a different beagle than many in that she never barked, unless she was extremely hungry, when she’d give you one desperate woof. For that I am grateful, and I have always loved telling people that, especially other beagle lovers. She does have some other interesting noises, including the howl that used to be brought on by answering machines or if you howled at her and her signature squeak, which means she’s happy (here’s how happy she was when we got home from Europe and how happy she was for SOME reason). Squeaker has been one of her nicknames. She also showed you she was happy by wriggling on her back (while I clap giddily over her). And now there’s the snory noise (see grunty noise video) when she’s excited because of her airway issue.

She has had one and only one toy, Lil’ Buddy, since she came home with me, given as a gift. She was never much for playing, which makes me believe the theory that she was a puppy mill mom without much of a puppyhood. But Lil’ Buddy was always there for the special times when someone she liked came to visit and she would carry her toy to a corner and bonk it with her nose. Until she caught you watching, of course, when she would pretend nothing was happening. Such a dainty little lady. You can’t not love her.

She used to run laps around the coffee table when I got home at night (followed by much laziness – see this video). She chased the cat, when there was one. She got into every trash can she could. She loves food and LOVES pizza especially. She has been a ninja, even in her old age, when it comes to food. She loves to eat cicadas (see this and this), and even snatched them from the air during the big cicada onslaught of 2004 (?) in DC. The food stories go on and on. Some of the best include the chocolate-covered coffee beans, the entire chicken carcass, the 5 slices of pizza, the bag of sugar-free Werther’s, the bag of caramel Hershey kisses, and the pumpkin fudge.

I have always said that she is a robodog who will never die. She has lived through other bouts of slipped disc, a paralyzed face, chronic bronchitis, and removal of a bizarre cancerous tumor on her leg (and all the scares from her eating adventures). And honestly I think she would live forever, even with this pain, maybe just because she wants to be around for me. I sure do love her.

Josh and I will both be there Thursday, and I am grateful that she will have that support. He has been a loving friend to her for the last 4 years. Sweet dreams, my Shug.

Sugar's "profile pic" before I adopted her. WAY overweight at 35 lbs.!
happy dog2
PB300817
Sad beagle eyes.
Snowy Sugar
October 2005 009
happy dog
feb2006 004
Sugar meeting her cat in 2003.
Shug owned a house with nice sunny spots once.
sugar sleeping

Sugar, looking regal and Gramma's house, Thanksgiving 2009.

Fun With Moving Senior Dogs

It’s been a tumultuous six weeks. Suffice it to say that I upended my life and within the space of one month I searched for and found a home to rent that met my long list of requirements (same town, allows two dogs, no steps from front or back door, fenced yard, enough space for all of my junk), packed everything I own, emptied 1.5 storage spaces and moved furniture from two homes along with myself and the dogs into the new place. Oh, and let’s not forget that during that time I launched a project at work that I’d been working on for six months and that all of my superiors were anxiously awaiting.

I give you this brief window into what’s been going on because I wanted you to have some background on the following story. I’ve been stressed. I don’t really want to get into the specifics of what led to the move – most of you reading this know at least the basics anyway. I wanted to tell a story about moving day. You might want to think twice about reading more if poop grosses you out.

On moving day I had a long list of things to do and I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible. The plans included emptying a storage unit, shuffling my furniture from the back of a second storage unit shared with my parents, stopping at my old place and getting my furniture from there, stopping at my friend’s place for a mattress and boxspring, moving everything into the new house, and then going to get the dogs and bring them home. I’ll give a shout out to Two Men and a Truck because they were great. And they actually sent three men. They made quick work of everything and we even had some fun. One of them told me, “You need some more clothes and shoes.” They helped me saw the boxspring in half and helped set things up.

After a long day of moving I settled up with the movers and ran straight back to pick up the dogs. I was so excited to get them settled. Well, the bulldog started to freak out when I arrived and started packing the dog stuff. Neither of them seemed plussed at all while the movers moved large furniture around them earlier that day. Arthur stood in the open doorway as all of us came in and out. But as soon as I touched the dog beds Arthur was COMING WITH ME. And I mean he showed all his bulldog colors. And those beds are bulky, and he surprised me by scooting out the door around me, at which point I had to stop him by grabbing handfuls of his neck blubber because he had no harness on. So now I was in hyperdrive trying to load the car as fast as possible and also be careful with Sugar because her slipped disc is bad, so I decided to set Arthur up in the car first and then bring Sugar. I should have known what was about to happen because it wasn’t the first time, but I was rushing and stressed and didn’t think.

I put his bed in the back of the car and brought him out, along with his ramp. He is running to the car. While I am trying to keep him from clawing the heck out of my bumper in an attempt to climb in, I set up the ramp. I get him up the ramp and put the ramp in the car, and as I’m about to close the door, I see it coming.

“Oh you’re going to take a big dump in the car now, aren’t you?” I asked him.

So I stood and watched it happen and in a desperate split-second decision, with the sudden realization that I’d never get the ramp set up again to get him out before he tracked it everywhere, I cupped my hands and scooped. I threw it in the grass on the side of the road (and yes, this one time I admit to not cleaning it up) and closed Arthur into the car. I ran to wash my hands and get some cleaning supplies, did a quick cleanup of the dog bed in the car, ran for Sugar, and with a dazed sigh of relief and unbelieving shake of the head finally got on the road with both the dogs.

But we made it! We’re starting to feel at home now.

Bringing Home Bulldog

For a long time I’ve wanted an English bulldog. I love their personality and their big wrinkly faces. Since last year when we got the yard fenced, we’ve been ready for a new addition to the family. I looked locally and found that English bulldogs are a hot commodity. There are very few people who want to give up their bullies, and when they do it’s often because the dog doesn’t get along with other dogs. This is not an optimal situation for me, since Sugar the beagle has seniority (in many senses) and a history of slipped discs in her back and I needed to be sure that a new dog would defer to her. I wanted a calm dog, probably older, not too big, who wouldn’t knock her over or bother her.

I decided in February that I would look for a rescue English bulldog for one year, and save for a puppy during that time, so that if I didn’t find someone by next Valentine’s Day, we’d get a puppy.

Eventually I decided to expand my search radius. I found Long Island Bulldog Rescue, and the rest is history. A post came up on their Facebook page about a senior boy named Cheech whose human baby sister was ostensibly allergic to him. He was described as good with other dogs. He seemed like a perfect fit for Sugar, and I applied for him that night.

I had several phone conversations with Laurette, who runs the rescue organization, and the owner, who was truly sad to be giving up his buddy. But he was happy to hear that he would be going to a good home – lots of dog beds, air conditioning, no steps, and two dog lovers to love him. I had totally fallen for Cheech before I asked how big he was. “Oh, he’s only about 75 pounds.” The phone was on speaker and my and Sherpa’s jaws both dropped. We were NOT expecting that. But we were already sold.

His previous owner is a traditional Long Island dude who I am fairly sure rarely left LI. When we were discussing how and where to meet, he said he had looked on the computer and found a Sleepy’s Mattress Center on Staten Island where we could meet, since “around here Sleepy’s has a parking lot.”

So, I bought some supplies and we drove to Staten Island and ended up meeting in a bank parking lot. His owner was there with an enormous, smiling bulldog. “LOOK AT HIM!” I yelled. He was amazing. We had an emotional time with his owner. We all cried and I promised I’d send photos and updates. Then we put a beast of a bulldog in the car and set out for home.

We have enjoyed the heck out of this funny guy. He came home to a new house and a new name: Arthur. He has been to the vet pretty much weekly since we brought him home 2 months ago. The vet literally gave me a round of applause for taking on a senior EB. He’s worth it. He’s hilarious: He snores loud, farts louder, and generally looks like he’s rolling his eyes at you whenever he’s awake.

And we lucked out – he has been great with Sugar. Actually… she barked at him a couple of times and that let him know who’s boss. He was terrified of her for a while and would run away when he saw her. Now they are settling in together. And I think he’s feeling at home now. Maybe all the pooping in the kitchen did it.

Laurette from Long Island Bulldog Rescue works tirelessly to place hundreds of English bulldogs in foster and forever homes every year. I want to give her a special shout out and also a shout out to the pet rescue volunteers I have met in the last few months! Good people with good hearts who do good things. We wouldn’t have this guy to snuggle without you.

On the way home with an adorable big smelly beast.
On the way home with an adorable big smelly beast.
Mushy sleep face.
Mushy sleep face.
Treats for dogs.
Treats for dogs.
Chilling with ice packs after a hot trip to the vet.
Chilling with ice packs after a hot trip to the vet.

Arthur new bed Arthur wiggles

Coming home from teeth cleaning.
Coming home from teeth cleaning.
Bulldog hug!
Bulldog hug!
Distinguished dogs.
Distinguished dogs.
Happy homecoming!
Happy homecoming!
Sunning on the patio.
Sunning on the patio.
The most interesting dog in the world.
The most interesting dog in the world.

Cicada Comedy

We learned earlier this year that there was a cycle of cicadas that was supposed to hatch, and that there are actually many different cycles that hatch at different intervals, so back in 2004 or 2005 when I was in D.C. I didn’t have to be so sad for Sugar to see the cicadas go. I thought they only came every 17 years and that  Sugar would never see them again.

Last year she got a good crop. And now they’re back. On Friday, Sherpa and I were on a ride when I noticed several cicadas on the path.

“Sugar’s going to be so excited!” I gushed.

Wanna go out there, wanna go out there...

Yes. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: The dog LOVES eating cicadas. Sherpa didn’t experience the full force of the dog’s obsession with cicadas last year because we weren’t living together. But once she realizes they’re out there, she actually becomes animated. After dark (hell, any time) she will wait with her nose on the door until you let her out to inspect any area with a porch or patio light. I’ve seen her actually leap in the air and nab cicadas in flight. They make an awful buzzing sound while she happily chomps away.

I definitely created a monster when I showed her all those years ago that she could eat them.

Sherpa found the first one on our porch on Saturday. He gleefully directed the dog to it, and her cicada switch flipped. Since then she has been waiting at either the front or back door whenever we are around.

When we took a break from cicada hunting, she stood and stared, wagging her tail furiously.

Last night, things escalated. Sherpa saw a cicada flying around the back patio light. We opened the door and were excitedly trying to get the dog to catch it when it flew INTO the house. It started to careen all around the first floor, bouncing off the walls. We became a vision of an old silent film comedy. Imagine the cicada, me, Sherpa, and the dog, all running in circles around the house, ducking, falling over things, he and I getting spooked when we lose and find the thing again. We turned lights off strategically to lure it to one place. Come on, Sugar! Get it! GET IT!  Seeing that she wouldn’t be catching it without our help, Sherpa made it his mission to get the bug.

He got out chopsticks (his go-to Asian MacGuyver tool) and was trying to fish it out of a lamp when he fell off the couch. Then he knocked a picture off the wall and caught the corner of it with the top of his bare foot. Things weren’t quite so funny anymore.

We practically ripped the curtains off the dining room window when we’d find the bug in there and it would buzz our faces as it flew away. Sugar hopped around, following us closely, wanting her treat.

Finally, and I don’t know how, Sherpa caught it with his fingers. TRIUMPH! The dog was ready. He presented it to the princess and WHOMP! She grabbed it. Sherpa recoiled from the beast.

“OW!” … she bit his finger.

We’re Getting a Dog!

With all the insanity we have been enduring with home renovations, I have had one positive goal always in the back of my mind: to finally get the English bulldog I have wanted for so long.

This morning, I couldn’t stop myself. I went to Petfinder.com, and found myself a 7-year-old male bulldog whose owner had gotten sick and couldn’t take care of him anymore. He is adorable! And then there I was, filling out an application for adoption. And then there I was, on the phone finalizing adoption details.

At least, that’s what I told Sherpa when I sent him a link to the dog on Facebook.

“Are you serious? Isn’t getting a dog something we should talk about before we do it?”

I got you! April Fool’s! I’m in trouble now. I know I’m in for something.

And it is really, truly not the time for me to be getting a dog. Mister Sensible is right – as much as we both love dogs, we are strapped for cash until my condo sells, and bulldogs are prone to health problems. Not to mention we’re spoiled by how easy Shug is to care for, even with her diabolical food adventures. And I haven’t even talked to Sugar about whether she would be OK with it.

Now, that’s not to say that that dog isn’t real. He is real, and I wish I could adopt him, along with every bulldog I ogle from time to time. I also urge you to adopt if you’re thinking about getting a pet. I plan to, when the time is right for another dog. (Like tomorrow. I mean, next week. I mean, WHEN WE INSTALL A FENCE.)

Sugar the Wind-Up Dog

This happened a couple of months ago. Shug has been getting famous among my friends for the howling thing – she’s completely quiet all the time, except for the happy squeaking and when you get a couple of people howling at her.

She also used to do this whenever the answering machine came on – must have been some sort of noise it made that we couldn’t hear. Thankfully for her, answering machines went the way of the dodo and she can live in peace. Until Sherpa gets hold of her, that is. For him, this trick still has a shine (I try to limit it – doesn’t she look tortured?!). So I recorded it for posterity. And this is the first YouTube video I’ve ever uploaded. I’m so modern and stuff.