May 26, 2015

White Dog looked at her sister, Storm, wrapped in an afghan and quietly sleeping in my arms. "So much progress! For a Tiny Girl who ran from being touch to this."

"It IS wonderful and I hope she stays for awhile," I agreed. But she soon stirred and made her gentle little huffing sounds that she would like to be set on the ground. She did not dash off, instead stood for a moment between my feet, shook herself thoroughly, and then moved to get a drink of water.

Mind you, it is not as though Storm is yet at the point of coming to me and asking to be held. But neither did she squirm or indicate unhappiness over being where she was...

DESPITE have just had her upteenth bath this week. Our poor gentle girl has been dealing with a horrible setback in her colitis. So bad we took her to see Dr. Julia and put her back on meds. Her little system is a digestive mess and so is her very sore bottom.

But cleaned and warm and able to enjoy breakfast because of the medication, our Teensy Weensy White Dog relaxed in my arms. It was exciting to see her eyes get heavy and to watch her surrender to sleep without fear or concern about being held. I nearly held my breath so as not to disturb her.

"Momma," White Dog whispered next to me, "I love seeing that look on your face. You make Storm, and me too when you hold me, feel like we are cradled by an Angel and nothing else exists in the world." I kissed my girl, both of them, on the nose. "Stop! You are going to make me cry." "I mean it!"


May 25, 2015

White Dog did not even lift her head from the pillow...because she KNEW the answer to the mystery before Candace even got the chance to explain it.

A while back, early in gardening season, one of the lettuce plants went missing from the bottom row of the vertical planter. Candace found a small burrow hole coming up nearby and tunneling under the shed. We concluded the culprit was a mouse trying to homestead so we saturated the burrow with peppermint oil and tamped shut the exit way. And it seemed to work. No more missing produce and no more burrows; the peppermint did as promised and chased the mouse away.

With all of the rain we have received, the garden is growing lush. It is Candace's pride and joy. She was been guarding the first slowly ripening cherry tomato in anticipation that it will be juicy luscious red by the week's end; and the lettuces were leafy invitations to make salad..

Today when she came in, she did not look happy. "Either our rodent problem has returned," she started, "or we have a lettuce thief of bigger proportions." She looked pointedly at Baby Zsofia calmly nibbling her stuffed dragon in the middle of the room.

ALL of the bottom row of lettuce plants have been eaten and there is evidence based on leftover bits and a cozy depression that they were enjoyed by some pup one partaking a relaxing snack on the straw bales on top of other plants.

Every eye in the house turned to our darkest white dog, still nonchalant, but ignoring the stares. "I could swear," Candace commented, "that I saw the flash of a VERY fluffy tail jumping over the fence. You don't think she can or would hop over the garden barrier, do you?"

The White Dog Army took a long look at their sister, stifled giggles, and turned to Candace. "Oh NO!" they said in unison. Miss Z looked up and smiled.

Tomorrow's challenge for the Candace and the WDA gardening team: Sibe-proof the garden.


May 24, 2015

White Dog and the White Dog Army love projects where they get to help supervise. Next to my side of the bed sits an inexpensive open grid, milk crate type "tower" which holds my sleep apnea equipment plus the usual bed stand paraphernalia. At the very bottom of the stack is a cube that holds a drawer.

I have been sneezing a lot in the morning and today pulled at a dust tuft coming out of the drawer only to end up with a long dust lint grime beast. I opened the drawer, full of stored thisses and thats which are never needed or checked upon...YIKES!

My engineering side said "open grid top, stuff in basket underneath...BAD design." It had become the beginnings of an archaeological site; the sands of time were working hard to bury the drawer's contents. And when the ever inquisitive Miss Z plunged her nose into the drawer and lifted her head crunching something, I called for an empty trash bag and cleaning cloth.

Suddenly White Dog and Sachi were next to me on the bed peering over the edge. Bella paced and barked at my feet. Zsofia had already claimed digging rights. Storm sat next to the furniture and watched in amazement. Only Puff and YoYoMa had the good sense to not lose sleep over this mess.

First we one-by-one dumped things into the trash bag and shook off the surface sediment so that we could explore without getting filthy (or less so). Then we wiped off the surface with our cloth. And FINALLY we all took a look to discover what we had uncovered.

LOTS of sewing goods like elastic, and spools of thread and those little velcro tab sets. White Dog Diaries going back to the very earliest years when I actually wrote a diary and then transcribed it onto the blog ("Luddite!" I heard WD mutter). Journals my students and I kept when we first moved to Albuquerque and I homeschooled two kids that had fallen into the public school cracks. A broken frame with a photo of Steve's grandfather. A once lovely white paper cut snowflake ornament now looking like Chicago snow in late January. A three inch long plastic ant. What a treasure trove!

With each item, the White Dog Army had to examine the artifact and pass judgment. It was a bit unnerving the number of things the Baby found to actually eat...much to her elder siblings disgust.

By the time we finished that single drawer, we needed to vacuum the carpet. Steve took the now empty crate to the bathtub to wash out while the WDA and I pondered how to improve the design of the system. We decided that we would but the drawer in upside down so no dirt could accumulate and then high-pawed each other for our brilliance.

"Wow! That was LOTS of work before breakfast," Bella pointed out. YoYoMa rounded the corner of the bed. "So let's eat!," he said. "By the way," he added as he passed the tower, "You are going to have to add a rock or weight to that empty bottom section; the tower is now topheavy!"

"AFTER breakfast," Storm agreed.


May 23, 2015

White Dog and the rest of the White Dog Army have never been fond of Steve's early morning Saturday class. It is not that they mind getting up with him. Steve is an early bird and most mornings rises before the rooster crows (in my opinion) to put Puff in for a couple hours of oxygen therapy while he works at his computer or grades student work. Sachi and Siku regularly join him at these tasks. But there is something about the rush of rising, eating right away, and Steve's dashing off to be gone for the day.

After he leaves at 7:30 we, generally, all go back to sleep for a bit. It is sort of a recharging time. The neighborhood at this time on Saturday mornings is relatively quiet and of course, the shops a block away on Route 66 are not yet open. So we are undisturbed as we stretch out and give ourselves back over to the gentle sounds of the day awakening...and early morning lullaby.

As we got into comfy nap positions it occurred to me that this was the first time since nearly a week ago that we had naturally fallen into our "normal" routine. I smiled as I lifted my head to look around the room to see all of the White Dog Army calm and at peace. It did not cause tears as I thought, "Taiko, I know how you loved sleeping in." I smoothed the pillow and laid back.

Maybe we are all beginning to get used to the idea of Taiko's spirit (along with Quinn's, and Nuka's, Oso's and Darby's) rather than his physical reality. Maybe we are drawn to the idea of seizing life and not drowning in grief. Maybe we are beginning to understand and heal.

Time and love.


May 22, 2015

White Dog was just as reactant as the others. Today was the boomerang day, when the White Dog Army responded to all of the stress and change of the past few days, weeks really. Everyone was very needy and not at all understanding of the fact that we are always stronger together...each demanded to be the focus.

Steve and I did the best we could to make sure that each of the White Dogs got special attention and time devoted to just them but it did not keep the individuals from demanding more...or wanting to horn in on time being spent elsewhere.

And they did not care whether the attention was positive or negative; it was being noticed they each craved.

Basic skills like house training were forgotten or ignored. Meals were refused but then others were shouldered away from their bowls and their meals stolen. One darker white dog ate a hole in our bed comforter and pulled out half of the stuffing. Another little dancer chewed the tassels off of the chair pillow that has been part of her life, untouched, since the day she arrived.

We understood that this was a reaction to all we have been through but it made Steve furious to discover that somepup had peed in what had been Taiko's bowl. I reminded the WDA harshly that Steve, too, was grieving the loss.

The ripples will subside but it makes me sad to see the Army's behavior because it reflects the confusion and uncertainty that they are feeling. Tonight I am ready to fall into bed exhausted from all of the petting and the outpouring of compliments and the holding everyone until they rested calmly in my arms.

"You are sorely missed," I whisper to my Tender Hearted Angel as I close down the computer.


May 21, 2015

White Dog looked around the room. It was like viewing aftershocks from a tremendous upheaval. Puff clung to Taiko's bed; the little corner she usually laid on when her brother hogged the whole mattress. She seemed lost. Poor Storm was suffering from a major attack of her stress colitis; she was bloody from her anxiety. YoYoMa lay watching the spot where Taiko had been wrapped in a blanket to begin his final journey. Even the baby, Zsofia mourned in her way as she put her favorite toys in Taiko's kennel.

We struggled hard to not make this a day of heartbreaking firsts...the first morning without saying, "Good morning Taiko Marie Sehi-Smith! I kiss your nose."...the first breakfast with an empty bowl...the first time Steve's boy did not come to him in the early morning and lie in quiet companionship as he was brushed.

The first day we referred to the White Dog Army as seven, not eight.

We were not very successful as tears flowed freely; even the bright blue New Mexican skies joined us as they opened to cry along. But we felt them with us, ALL of the White Dogs...Quinn, Nuka, Oso, Darby...and Taiko...and while it ached and hurt there was a comfort in feeling that connection.

The White Dog Army shared memories and were so thankful for a rescue friend's short video, taken before he sent Taiko to us, that showed our boy's fine stubborn streak as he tried to teach him how to use his doggie door. Kevin's confident tone turned to pleading and then defeat as smiling Taiko just stood, smiling and totally uninterested in coming through the flap.It was quintessential Taiko and it made us laugh.

The first day Taiko was free of the horrific monster that tried to steal his glorious beautiful spirit but that only got his broken body. A day of freedom and victory for our Tender Heart.

Time and love will ease our grief...and our belief that we are not really apart...ever.


May 20, 2015

White Dog and the rest of the White Dog Army sat respectfully. Steve and I held Taiko in our arms. Candace had her arms around us. In a moment it was done and Steve gently laid our Tender Hearted One on the blanket. White Dog walked over and sniffed. She was followed by each of the others who sniffed or nuzzled or kissed their brother.

Then White Dog started a low sorrowful keen. One by one the others joined her until the Howling Song of Passage filled the house and started tears flowing.

Taiko The Tender Heart, Oh Yes! Another White Dog, had begun his journey across the bridge.

Many of you know we have struggled the past weeks to find a balance in his meds that had suddenly all stopped working. Yesterday we spent the afternoon with Dr. Julia running xrays and doing tests to no avail. Tai was nearly comatose and not eating or drinking...this in just 24 hours. The work all showed that Taiko had no issues with his spinal cord or bones or heart, chest or lungs. His brain did not exhibit signs of trauma or tumor. Finally in frustration and in hope of finding a clue that might point us in a direction we did a complete blood panel.

None of us was prepared for the results.

Taiko was in the final stages of pancreatic cancer, insulinoma. A sneaky, nearly symptomless, mean, aggressive, painful monster. Suddenly the neurological issues and trouble walking and anxiety all came together. Too late...not that this disease has any true treatment or survival rate. Our precious boy never seemed able in his life to get a break.

So here we are, at home, where our homebody boy loved to be, with a huge chunk of our hearts ripped out, paying our last respects. I cannot bear te thought that very soon we will remove Taiko's collar and tags and return his spirit to the stars.

Always. Taiko. We will love you always.


May 19, 2015

White Dog bent her head over her brother's back. For a moment Sachi looked worried and then he noticed the entire White Dog Army was gathered and tails were wagging. "Happy First Gotcha Day, Sachi-san," they sang.

Steve cuddled his devoted Little Man against his chest, "it seems like yesterday when Adrienne pulled up in the driveway after driving all the way to California and back to bring you to the White Dog Army. You walked in like you had always known this was home."

"And when the Baby came," White Dog continued, "it was you who took on entertaining and playing with her. You are an awesome 'big' brother." Zsofia stepped forward to kiss him on the nose; he nipped at her ruff. A wrestling match would have ensued right then, if YoYoMa hadn't cleared his throat and shook his tags.

In White Dog Army fashion, we will celebrate (and maybe break Sachi's diet for just this one night). Although he isn't much in a party state of mind, Taiko managed a smile for the Little Guy who both irritates and protects him.

Our little clown can be counted on to shift the mood. Ankle biter that he is has prompted a whole new protocol for greeting friends who enter our home. Determined "marker" is relentless; this activity especially annoys White Dog. And super Cassanova thinks every girl dog who enters his proximity finds him irresistible.

Happy Gotcha Day, Sachi, my Undaunted One, Of Course Another White Dog! We've grown accustomed to your breathy panting, your bloodcurdling scream, and the strange grunts and huffs you make. You add a unique character to our lives that makes us richer and better as a whole.

May 17, 2015

White Dog watched the living room fill up with shoes as Steve brought in the bags and barrels we had collected this final weekend. Officially the Paws To People Used Shoe Collection Fundraiser ended on Friday, but we spent the weekend gathering the last donations from businesses who had served as collection sites across the city.

The shoes needed to be paired and tied or banded together and then grouped 25 pairs to a bag in order to make them ready for Monday's pickup by our sponsor. Clearly, thanks to the generosity of so many...including lots of our Blog Family members who shipped us shoes to help us reach our goal of 5,000 pairs...we had surpassed the target.

Once we load the bags of shoes onto a truck on Monday, they will go to a collection site where the entire shipment will be weighed. Based on the weight, we will receive a "finders fee" of forty cents a pound. The money we earn will be added to our total to fund a new research grant this year.

The shoes will be sent to impoverished nations where they will be used to teach cobbling skills and to provide small business training. They will be refurbished, repaired, cleaned, and then resold in community based stores.

White Dog had the honor of adding the very last pair of shoes to the last bag to be bundled...my favorite pair of crocs. "It is like the end of an era," she said, "both of this project since we have worked on for nearly two years and for these shoes you always wear."
Loading shoes on Monday...231 bags of 25 pairs each.
The last bag goes on the truck! Woohoo!
The immediate reward for such a great job...the WDA is expecting a carry out box!
THANK YOU to each member of our Blog Family who sent us shoes from all over the country. Your support meant so very much to us...and you had a personal hand in helping to save lives.


May 16, 2015

White Dog said, "Poor Sachi has been waiting to tell his vet tale and everything keeps popping up to steal his moment." I looked at our Little Man lying on his paws sadly watching me type. "How about right now," I asked him. "It is your turn to tell about your visit to see Dr. Julia." I picked him up onto my lap.

"She called me Tubby," he said, talking as I transcribed. "Right to my face!"

It was Sachi's annual wellness checkup. In his mind it was cruel and unnecessarily harsh. First, my Happy Boy was stuck not once, but TWICE, for his shots. "And I didn't even nip or anything!" he complained. Then they took him into the lab to draw blood and do a heartworm test (which was negative).

While we waited for his blood panel, Dr. Julia listened to his heart and looked into his ears, eyes and throat. She ran her expert hands along his body, squeezing and moving parts. Then she sat down; Steve held his devoted boy in his lap.

"This Tubby boy needs to go on a diet. He has gained TWO pounds in the past year." "Two pounds is a lot and doesn't make sense," Steve defended his buddy. "He only gets a cup of food a day and he is always active wrestling with Zsofia." Dr. Julia shook her head, "More veggies, fewer treats. Maybe try a senior or low-cal kibble. He was already heavy last year and this is NOT good." The blood panel was good, no signs of diabetes and his thyroid was in normal range.

Sachi looked at me and knew changes were coming. I fully understand the risks that come with being overweight and two pounds on a dog that should weigh ten is a LOT. He snuggled against Steve's chest and licked his face. "I bet her scale is wrong, dad. Ask when it was calibrated last." I heard Steve promise to reweigh Sachi when we got home just to make sure he was not being treated "unfairly" due to an electronic malfunction.

When we got home Steve kept his promise...Sachi actually weighed a tenth of a pound MORE at home. Sachi wailed in frustration at the vision of what was to come.

I gathered the White Dog Army around me. "Sachi needs to lose a bit of weight. Yo and Bella, Dr. Julia is probably going to tell you both the same thing. Storm you know dropping some pounds is important to keeping your colitis in balance. So we are going to make a few changes. Mid day treats are going to be reduced from two treats to one...Sachi, you and Storm will share one. You will not get two bites of every meal dad and I eat...I will decide when you get bites and how many. And since Candace is growing such a beautiful garden full of fresh veggies, expect more crunchy fresh things in your dinner."

Everyone moaned.

I handed out a single turkey and sweet potato strip to each of the WDA...and split one to give to our smallest and chubbiest ones. Sachi wolfed his down almost as fast as Zso did, and then sat at my feet. "That is all there is, Sweet Heart," I told him. He jumped against my leg. "Nope, I mean it."

The little stinker sulked for a minute that scurried over to where Puff was still slowly chewing pieces of her treat. He stole the biggest piece right from under her mouth. "Hey!" He ignored me and ran outside.

When he came in a bit later, I caught him in my arms. "Another new rule, Little Man," I told him. "You will be held during treat time and will not be released until everypup has finished. Being on a diet is NOT a license to steal food." He look at me as if to ask, "Well, how else am I going to not starve?"