May 5, 2016

White Dog sat on the floor with the rest of the White Dog Army. Puff was in my arms in the momma chair. All eyes were fixed on her. We had just returned from Dr. Julia's office.

Puff was exhausted from the poking and prodding and had experienced a seizure on the way home from the stress. Her voice, however, was as strong as her spirit is.

"Yes, it is a tumor. The c monster is replacing my leg muscle with its wretched tentacles. Dr. Julia thinks it has not spread and is encapsulated in this specific muscle...for now. She took my bloods and aspirated the mass but we all agree that there is not much more we can, or want to do. Once we get the blood work back she will give momma a prescription to manage pain but I am not in pain now. And we will know that all of my organs are functioning and reliable. She called it hospice but I call it just living an invested life through all of its stages."

Zsofia pushed to the head of the group to nuzzle Puff's face and the others hung their heads.

"Now, I do not want you to be like this. I have had a long life and some amazing opportunities...like being part of the White Dog Army. It is not like my health is good to begin with but momma and dad make sure that I eat well and get supplements I need, and Dr. Julia is a wonderful advisor. I am not planning to leave any time soon but really who ever is?

"Instead of looking at me and worrying every time I limp or sleep too deeply lets agree to soak up the wonderful meals we have yet to eat, and nap in the glorious enchanted sunpuddles of New Mexico's afternoon, and cuddle in momma's arms as she brushes us and let's sing to the mailman. We have LOTS of things that I am not ready to give up yet.

"It took me more than three quarters of my life to know the love of a family, and the kindness of strangers, the pleasure/pain of siblings. This Little Old Lady is NOT going to just lie down and surrender.

"My time WILL come and it won't be convenient or in the far distant future but it is not NOW. We have so many celebrations that still await us to share together...

"Like YoYoMa's Gotcha Day which was two days ago. We did not forget but were waiting until it was better timing and dad did not have to work late. Well, NOW is better than waiting. And besides, Brother, I know how you adore your tacos...and it IS Cinco de Mayo.

"On the way home from Dr. Julia's I asked Dad to stop and get a family pack of tacos for us to enjoy for lunch to celebrate Yo...and life. And we must have margaritas. So put away those glum looks, Dr. Julia said I can do whatever I want and eat whatever I want...so let's party!"


May 4, 2016

White Dog bent closer to look at Puff's thigh. Yep, it was definitely a lump. A BIG one. It wasn't there two days ago, I called Steve over to see. Puff patiently was cradled in my arms.

Puff at 18 is our hospice girl. Even when younger she was too damaged from heart worms to be a good candidate for anesthesia and surgeries or other "put her out" procedures. She has had slowly growing mammary tumors that our vet helps us treat noninvasively with mushroom compounds and other dietary and holistic options; and it has worked for many months. Puff has an incredible spirit and will to live. She will not surrender easily. These are the thoughts that pass through my head every time something goes awry with her.

I have promised her that we will respect her wishes as long as she wants to let the process of life wind down naturally but I have also been clear that I will not stand by and let her suffer. When THAT time comes, she and I will have a different discussion.

But the lump was a puzzlement. I go over our Little Old Lady's body every single day to groom and keep watch over her. It came out of no where on a leg that was getting weak but that shows no signs of pain. The lump does not seem to be painful nor is it odd in color or character. It is a hard golf ball on her right rear leg.

Dr. Julia was not in today. We picked up the phone as soon as we finished our assessment. But tomorrow Puff will go see our guide and advisor. At the very least I hope to come away with an understanding and a strategy. White Dog and the rest of the Army, like Steve, are hoping it is some fixable reversible oddity.

Puff says let us just not worry about it until tomorrow when we have more information. I am not in pain and there is nothing we can really do...White Dog whispers over Puff's back, "Yes, there is. We can ask for the Universe to be kind and for the healing energies of our friends."

May 3, 2016

White Dog ALMOST did not want to join us for a ride. She knew it was time for her Wellness Checkup with Dr. Julia. Ever since she was a pup, the Little White Dog of My Heart has been very nervous about vet visits. It is odd since with the exception of her spay, she has never really had any major issues and is always treated like the Celebrity Queen she is. But the lure of a ride and alone time with Steve and I brought out the stoic girl I love and she scampered out of the door.

Margaret ushered us right away into the exam room so White Dog would not have to stress over the other activity in the waiting room. WD trembled as she was carried to the back for her heart worm test but was quickly returned and placed in my arms.

Dr. Julia came in a short time later. She dismissed Margaret and let Steve hold our girl on the exam table so that WD would feel more comfortable. The exam did not take long.

"She looks great!" Not used to the blush of good health, I questioned , "Really? Her Back impingement?" "No worse and seems like she is pain managed and using her limbs with no problem. Next time she will probably need an easy dental but this baby is absolutely fine." White Dog gave me the "See, we did not need to even come today" look.

"Well, you are the only vet partner we have ever had since White Dog was 8 weeks old. Her health is the success of all of us." White Dog grudgingly wagged her tail in agreement.

"Bye Siku, I don't expect to see you until this time next year. Unless, of course you just want to stop by and hang out," Dr. Julia told her as we wheeled toward the door.


May 2, 2016

White Dog sat with us on the bed as we said "good mornings." It was a lttle crowded in the room with everypup pressing and asking for their kiss on the head and wake up roll call. But it was a good press as the birds sang outside the window and the sky was bright blue.

The WDA parted for a second to reveal Nilla still resting comfy in her bed and the light blessing her. "We ARE are beautiful family," White Dog muttered as she looked at her sister. Steve stretched over the bed to grab his phone from the nightstand.

"It is going to be a GREAT day," Zsofia wooed. "Let's have breakfast."


May 1, 2016

White Dog whispered, "You know YoYoMa and dad shopped at the Growers' Market for a VERY special menu that we are going to make just for you today." "Really?" I asked secretly delighted. "Why?" and then I realized that might have sounded ungrateful. "I mean, how very wonderful and totally undeserved." WD knew I had slipped but chose to ignore my gaffe. "You are going to love what everyone has in mind. Let's just hope the wind and rain die down a bit. We kind of wanted to grill and eat outside."

The wind did NOT hear her or the rest of the White Dog Army's pleas to stop its bluster and howl; the rain was unpredictable in it confident appearance for a few minutes and then its disappearance until the next round. The WDA and Steve huddled. A new plan was formed leaving the menu intact but changing the picnic to the living room.

Yesterday, I saw Steve and YoYoMa haul in a local bleu cheese wedge, some small overwintered onions, crispy whole wheat kaiser rolls, peppers, beets, tiny potatoes, and brussel sprouts. And from the grocery this morning he carried home lemons and ground steak.

Steve has gout so we do not eat much red meat in our house. For most times, I am fine with that but every so often my cave woman comes out and the idea of bloody red beef is overwhelming. (I hope my vegetarian and vegan friends will understand we all do not walk the same path).

White Dog glanced into the kitchen where the team of chefs and supervisors were already working on aspects of the meal. "You are SO lucky!" she hinted. I tried not to be too attentive so the surprise would be genuine but already I had kind of figured parts out...not that I would give it away.

The White Dogs and Steve filled the kitchen with smoke using the broiler to replicate what the outdoor grill should have done but the results were stupendous.

A steak burger thick and rare and mottled with bleu cheese sat triumphantly on a roll dripping with a bleu cheese based sauce and smothered in fried onions. It was the most beautiful sight. I got a bit emotional when I realized that they had done this for me...and they were having the same burger, one for Steve and meatball sized ones without onions for the Army...only made of ground turkey. Next to the swoon-burger was a mound of sauteed vegetables ("We were going to cook them on the grill," Bella confessed) spiced with the tiniest touch of fresh chile pepper...the perfect counterpoint to the bleu cheese.

I laughed when Benson hit the stereo's "play" button and "Bye Bye Miss American Pie" came flooding into the room. We ate to a selection of American classics..."like from a jukebox," Benson explained.

The finale was a three layer tall lemon cake with lemon custard between the layers...it was a promise that these windy cold days were numbered and Summer WAS coming. I called everyone to attention to thank them for the special fussing and to let them know how truly wonderful the meal...and my family was.

"And now, a nap," suggested C.A.Stormer as Pearl belched and everyone sank to comfy positions. If we wore belts, I believe we would have all leaned back and loosened them.


April 30, 2016

White Dog put her paw on my shoulder indicating that I should let the scene play out.

Puff was splayed out, half dozing on the big fluffy bed in the living room, front paws dangling off the edge which is a position she often finds comfortable.

Zsofia came prancing in from outside and stopped to survey the room. Several of her siblings were napping in favorite spots.She woo'd an invitation to play but not even Sachi hopped down from his spot on the cushions to wrestle.

Zso looked around again and headed over to Puff. She sniffed Puff's ear. She nosed her side. "Zso," I cautioned, "she is sleeping." Zsofia looked at me and then put her face low, against Puff's, and gently sang. Then she threw herself on her back in front of Puff and nuzzled her face.

When Zsofia came to us a a mere eight week old pup, she saw Puff as her surrogate mom. She climbed on the poor Old Girl and pressed at her belly. Puff was patient even as the "baby" grew to be bigger than she was.

This moment seemed like a tender reenactment of those early days. Zso licked Puff's muzzle and sucked on her ear. For her part, Puff pushed her head against the Dark Baby's ruff and tugged at her ear. She slapped at the "Little One" in play and just like a pup, Zso responded by wiggling and rolling in delight.

"If only we had that system where all our actions were filmed," White Dog began.

The mother and child reunion continued for several minutes before Zsofia curled her body around Puff's...head over her back and front paws wrapped around her. Puff sighed deeply before relaxing into the embrace.


April 29, 2016

White Dog noticed that C.A.Stormer seemed to be gravitating toward sleeping in the bedroom with the rest of the pack instead of on the bed in the office with his blanket. She is right for most of this week that Stormer has settled next to my side of the bed and sighed with contentment when I reached down and touched him.

With the weather swings Puff has been off her normal routine. Any shifts cause her to be restless and unable to settle down deeply at night; consequently, she often gets up and stumbles around in the darkness until she eventually just crashes somewhere and sleeps in fits and starts. To move her, fully awakens her and starts the wandering anew.

The White Dog Army understands her issues associated with being old and when startled by her stumbling against them as they sleep they bark a warning and just shift positions. The bark serves as a alarm to this momma who usually gets up and moves our Old Lady back to her bed so that she doesn't disturb the others.

But Storm has not been here long enough to know this ritual. Plus he has JUST begun to feel comfortable sleeping with the pack. PLUS he has a funky issue with Puff looking at him. So when she struggled from her bed, just a few feet from where C.A. slept, and attempted to wobble over to be nearer to me, she fell on her slumbering brother.

The brother who sleeps with his bad eye up...so he is truly completely blind until he turns his head.

She fell, he jumped to red attack alert and nipped Puff. It took about three seconds. I heard the growl, her squeal and swung my legs down over Storm to trap him against the bed while swooping Puff into my arms. She was trembling and he was in panic mode. And we were all in the dark.

I wrapped Puff in my blankets against me and bent to stroke Storm.

"Steve. Steve. Sorry to wake you but I need your help." I tried to sound gentle and unconcerned but I WAS waking him at 4 in the morning. "What?" he sat up with worry flooding over him.

"I need the light. Can't really move right now. I am OK. But we might need to treat Puff for a cut to her forehead."

Stormer had broken skin on our girl's brow; not so much a bite as a scrape where his teeth dragged short of sinking into flesh. But she was bleeding. Storm was madly licking my foot...what he does for reassurance.

Steve helped me clean Puff's wound and then gently placed her in the gated area where our gentle calm boy, Benson sleeps. He looked up for a second as Puff sank against him and then went back to sleep.

Steve wanted to be mad at Stormer but wisely decided that would not exactly be fair. Then he wanted to gate him in the office for future nights but decided that would not be fair to White Dog or to a boy still trying to find his place. We decided to leave the situation stand as it was. Puff was safe with Benson and Stormer would not have any more startling assaults. Tomorrow we would clearly consider the options and work on fixing the problem.


April 28, 2016

White Dog shuddered when I reminded her that today was National Superhero Day. "Please momma, DON'T drag out those flashbacks," she begged.
It cost me dearly in treats smuggled quietly to just her, but she sighed and gave permission.

Conversely, Sachi jumped up and down and pleaded for us to include the fun we had of him and Dad last year for his Gotcha Day...he is devoted to Steve and would have a poster of this hanging over his bed if given the opportunity. Not so sure Steve would agree.


April 27, 2016

White Dog and the rest of the White Dog Army love the warm but not too hot, better than summer weather that fills our days right now. But each of them has a special dislike of the revitalization of the endlessly marching six-leggeds that cause us anguish from now through first frost.

Yes, we have a perennial problem with ants. Not a few ants but the invasion from the depths that as Hopi legend has it once saved humanity from certain destruction.

"With respect to the Ant People," White Dog complained, " the White Dog Army was not part of the greedy First People nor were we saved by hiding in the Ant Kiva. We should not be tortured for the fact humanity has taken more than its share once again."

Her unhappiness stemmed from the ants that drank and swam in their water bowl outside (despite being emptied and refilled many times across the day), the lurking hordes waiting for Steve to put food bowls on the floor, and worst of all the tiny black Lilliputians who climbed over the White Dogs burying themselves in the furs as the Army napped on the deck.

We put up a valiant fight to convince the ants that they would rather live elsewhere. For the safety of the WDA we won't use insecticide but have sprayed peppermint oil to break up their scent trails and surrounded their hill openings with cucumber peelings and yet more peppermint. Boric acid has not worked. And the live mint plants did not thrive in our environment although they seemed effective until the summer heat baked them.

We routinely brush every one's furs to remove hitchhikers and have sprayed a light mixture of peppermint oil and apple cider vinegar onto their coats to act as a deterrent. Every pup is very fragrant but the treatment only works a short while.

Yesterday Steve, in total frustration, snatched up and washed every dog bed cover and sleeping mat after seeing a brazen sixer crawling on Benson's sleeping face. This afternoon I slapped at movement on my arm as I worked in the office...looking down to see, you guessed it.

We wish the creatures no malice and point out to them that there are VAST stretches of mesa and desert that would provide no distractions or pursuit...in fact White Dog has even volunteered to help figure out how to move them there.

She walked away from the conversational impasse wen the ant people took the stance that THEY were here first and here they would stay. "Just how long IS the lifespan of an ant?" she asked.

"I think they were talking about their culture," I replied as I handed Steve the spray bottle to go around the area outside the kitchen window.  "Unfortunately, diplomacy seems to be failing."


April 26, 2016

White Dog and I took a long time finding just the perfect replacement. It was like she said, "Who would have thought we would need to be searching under indestructible for something like this?"

Last week Miss Zsofia came over and laid her head on my lap asking for attention. I rubbed and scratched as she twisted her neck and shoulders to direct my fingertips. "OUCH!" I jerked my finger away and Zso turned to look at me questioningly. My finger tip was bleeding.

"What the heck?"I asked as I began retracing my finger movements now searching to find what was sharp enough in her furs to actually cut me...and potentially harm her.

I found it...on her collar where her tags hang. What once had been a lovely custom made identification tag was now a twisted sharp abstract piece of art...and the identification information was totally gone.

Her tag originally looked like this photo from the artist's website...it was a single piece of metal with an insert covered over in domed resin. The style has worked for all of the White Dog Army since Puff without ever a problem.
Steve loosened our Baby Girl's collar a couple of weeks ago as she is still growing into her more adult shaped body. Additionally, the collar is not tight for comfort and safety factors. And Zso has not tried to chew her tags since she was a wee one...apparently until now.

White Dog took measures into her own paws. "Zsofia is the one member of the White Dog Army who worries me. Should she get out, I think her home needs to be readily identifiable. Yes, she has a chip...yes, she has a collar with her name and phone embroidered on it...personally, I think her information ought to be spray painted on her side...but momma, let's look and find a new tag that cannot be destroyed."

"I am not sure there is such a thing, My Love, but I agree. Your Baby Sister would do a walk about and if I was here alone I would have to rely on the kindness of strangers to shepherd her home."

We went online, read reviews, asked a few rescue friends who specialize in big tough dogs for their choices. Then we shopped and found a thicker than average stainless steel one piece, not layered, tag that was engraved. "Maybe that will at least slow her down." White Dog hoped as we placed the order.

The tag came today and Steve took off Zso's collar to put it on the loop. Zsofia took this as a sign of freedom and played "Catch Me" with Steve as he attempted to rebell the cat. Finally, he caught her and wrestled her to the floor.

First thing she did after he fastened it? Twisted and tried to catch the new tag in her lips...then she posed for photos.