June 28, 2016

White Dog pulled me aside as we were getting ready to run errands. "You are going to the pet place, right?" she asked. "I know, treats are already on the list," I told her.

"No, well that too, but," she nodded over to where Zsofia had already taken up watch next to Puff, "the Kid has been doing that a lot. Just sitting with Puff and making sure she is all right. That is really hard, I know for someone with her energy level." I nodded in agreement.

"Could you and dad maybe pick up a little something special for her? You know, like a surprise new toy that she could go out and be a pup with? She is so focused and caring that she ought to be recognized." "Her birthday is in just a few days," I pointed out. "No, I mean she deserves just a random for no reason surprise."

In the car, I mentioned White Dog's request to Steve and once in the store he set about finding the perfect "something."

Zsofia of late has been obsessed with the old plush squeaker snake that we got ages ago for YoYoMa's arrival; he never much took to it but Puff ripped off its face and tail segments and gnawed out several of the squeakers. The good old days.

In the store, Steve walked up carrying a red snake with squeakers, this one made of "indestructible" material and no filling. "How about this?" he said. "Sort of gives a nod to Puff and allows me to get rid of the old VERY dead green snakey."

Once home, Steve and White Dog called Zsofia out to the yard. I heard them demonstrating the different squeakers. Then White Dog came in.

"Did she like it?" I asked. "She has challenged EVERY one to play 'come and get it...it is MINE!' And Dad is trying to talk her out of digging a special nest for it out in the dead leaves." Steve came in and showed me the photos. I think she is pleased.


June 27, 2016

White Dog leaned against me later and said, "I know how hard and how long you have worked for this moment, momma. It was beautiful to see.

Puff has been, in her life with the White Dog Army, my hardest girl to convince...convince that she was safe...convince that living indoors was a good thing...convince that she needed to swallow pills...convince to trust me. She and Steve have had a special relationship since the day he flew with Terry in the tiny racing plane to rescue her in Kansas; he carried Puff back wrapped tightly in his arms cradling her ears against the loud noises of flight.

For the first month I despaired because she ran from me and would not make eye contact let alone let me touch her. The tears I wept into White Dog's fur over what I thought was a total rejection prompted  the Little White Dog of My Heart to advise me to just give her space and time. I remember answering, "A hundred years and two thousand miles are not going to make this girl love me."

White Dog was right of course. Nearly six years later and our life journey has taken us from soaring like eagles to falling like Icarus as we faced Puff's health issues and the changes of the White Dog Army.

Puff, at eighteen is at the end stage of her life, tough little Warrior with the independence and moxie of a street thug, not afraid to shake her paw and howl that she is NOT about to surrender. She is the one who is my choice as a partner in a bar fight...and is my inspiration. But these past months have mellowed her and opened her up to be held and cuddled...something she would kick and struggle against before...

...and for the first time ever she allowed me to kiss her on the nose. A big soft gentle smooch while holding her face in my hands and staring into those deep brown eyes.

And she didn't try to nip or twist her head away, or spit. She breathed in the love trustingly.


June 26, 2016

White Dog and YoYoMa were the only ones not gathered around the bed staring at CA Stormer. He HATES being stared at to begin with and this attention did not make me feel incredibly comfortable as we settled Stormer on the bed and prepared to trim his nails for the first time ever.

Our boy is a nervous one sometimes and I have been casually working to make sure he grew to not feel invaded by my touching his feet and squeezing his toes. He has been surprisingly non effected by my actions. Of course, the treat jar was at my hip and open just in case additional reinforcement was needed.

He stretched out between Steve and I looking a bit puzzled but enjoying the position of honor on the bed. Steve, his best buddy, was rubbing his belly and explaining that the nail clip would not hurt a bit and that there were rewards involved. I wrapped my arm around under his chin to cradle his neck and hold his collar and with the other arm took over the tummy rub.

CA was an old pro! Did not flinch a single time even though a few of the nails were extra long and tough which meant a tighter pinch. He would lift his head to let me know when a treat was due and then go back to his resting pose.

Of course, the WDA felt that as "official certifiers that no harm was done during this process" they, too, deserved rewards. They were disappointed upon rereading their contracts to find that only one treat would be given at the END of the procedure.

Steve nicked a quick on the back foot; fortunately it was a tiny breech which did not bleed much. Stormer looked up over his shoulder and then at me. TWO treats were the going price to forget about it.

In no time we were done and CA was returned to terra firma. His first few steps were tentative, kind of like walking in new shoes, but when I unscrewed the treat jar again to pay the gallery, he was able to trot right over.

"Wow!" I said to White Dog later. "Stormer did REALLY well! I kind of expected Mr. Crabby to display his angst-driven side but nope, your White Dog Army training shines through! good job to him...and you!"


June 25, 2016

White Dog drew a deep breath. "I sure hope Dad doesn't fall for those big Nilla eys," she said. "Because he will totally miss Zsofia nosing that bag of groceries closer to the door."


June 24, 2016

White Dog was trying to sleep. It was clear that if she wanted peace and quiet she would have to return to her own bed instead of resting in the living room. She sighed and left the room. Most of the others were just ignoring the vocal arguments that Zsofia was making to Pearl.

Pearl, in her typical fashion, was sleeping draped over the top of the Watching Chair with her feet dangling and chin resting on the window ledge. She was soundly asleep as it was still early in White Dog terms...or she was doing a fine job of pretending.

The problem was that Zso wanted to sit on that chair and look out of the window. She asked her sister to move with a polite tail wag and woo. Pearl ignored her. Zsofia asked again, this time putting her paw up on the chair cushion. No response.

The Darkest White Dog hopped onto the partner chair just 8" away from the other and looking out of the same windows, not to settle and look out there, but to reach her face across the space and woo her demand directly into Pearl's face. Pearly Girl did not even open her eyes.

Getting bolder, Zso stood on the little chest that serves as a table between the chairs and dramatically sniffed her sister making a point to huff into her ear. When that did not work, she crossed onto the Watching Chair and tried to squeeze into the space around her sleeping sibling.

Still failing to win the chair, Zsofia began to body press the smaller Pearl, forgetting Pearl was a mill dog and used to holding ground (Pearl is a tenacious stubborn one). Finally, The Dark One got a low throaty growl in response, but no movement of concession.She jumped off the chair and stood wooing a song of disrespect and bullying.

"All right, Little Miss," I told Zsofia. "You asked and were answered. She was there first. You can go on the chair next to her or stretch out on the couch, nobody is there."  Zso looked at me and started to complain. "Now stop!"

Zsofia picked up turtle carried it near as if to ask to play and then at the last moment skirted me with a haughty look. I heard the dog door slam. "Or you can go sulk outside."


June 23, 2016

White Dog and the rest of the White Dog Army have been incredibly attentive to Steve as they attempt to nurse his back into a return to spritelyness. He is not the most compliant patient, even when Sachi sits on him to keep him from hopping up and down. But the Tylenol and heating pad seem to be helping a little so everyone is in a hopeful state of mind.

The White Dog Army is beginning to feel the stress of their normal routine being altered. They try very hard to keep the look of disappointment from their eyes when pre-bedtime walks are cancelled; the idea of six walking trips around the neighborhood are more than Steve can even consider. And his substitute of taking all into the yard only goes as far as standing on the deck leaning heavily on the railing. They understand and do not complain but I know they are missing "normal."

Feeding times and eating spots have been moved around to better accommodate not having to stoop from the counter to the floor 11 times twice a day. For now pup meals are being served closer to where Steve can sit to place bowls, or to hand them to me to set on the floor. Zsofia kind of likes eating with the "big kids" but kind of misses her ingrained idea that her meals are, as they have been since she was a puppy when we segregated her because she ate different food, served around the corner from my desk. Puff who has trouble remaining standing during her meals is used to being helped by Steve cradling her hips as she enthusiastically devours her meals; she is accepting of the new methodology of momma holding her and feeding her in my lap but I know she secretly cannot wait to have her illusion of independence back.

White Dog does not understand why she can't, as usual, sit behind Steve's back on his armchair as he leans forward to groom the others. The White Ones have kindly allowed me to increase the grooming time we usually have together to compensate for Steve's early morning attentions that are not possible right now. (Despite what you might have heard, White Dogs DO shed, copiously, and require a daily maintenance regimen).

Hardest of all for the White Dog Army is not rushing Steve in a loving embrace to welcome him home or back inside or after he arises from the heating pad. It takes great effort for all to remember to approach him with tails waging but not to press and to leave him lots of space. And they struggle with how much space to leave so as not to cause back pain but sit so far off that he cannot lean forward or reach out to touch them.

"Thank you, my loves," I tell them before Steve returns home. "I know this is not easy. But you are all being patient, gentle and loving. Your understanding and love are very powerful medicines in helping dad get better. Believe in the WDA, things are already improving."


June 22, 2016

White Dog and the White Dog Army heard Steve stirring this morning; they all gathered around him. He had medicated himself and slept fitfully through the night, but they all knew the first test was how painlessly he would turn over, swing his legs off of the bed, and rise. "Slowly, and pause between each action," I told him.

I slid my hand beneath the blanket and knew by the knotted mass of his back muscles to expect the yipe that accompanied his rolling over. The WDA surged in distress. "Come on guys, you need to let him get out of bed and have a clear path. He is going to move VERY slowly and hang on to things...kind of like momma sometimes does but with more pain.

Poor Steve was a mess after just walking to the door of the bedroom. I suggested if he was still not ready for a doctor's visit he should at least ramp up his pain management by switching from holistic to tylenol and to try resting on the heating pad.

"I have to put Puff in oxygen, first," he replied. "And make dog breakfasts." Puff did need her therapy but I knew the cost as Steve first had to carry her out to potty and then place her in the O2 Kennel which required him bending to the ground and extending his arms fully to position her. "At least dog breakfasts can wait," I said. "No they can't, tonight is a late night so they eat dinner early which means they need to eat breakfast now to keep the meal spacing sensible."

I took a deep breath, as did White Dog. Stormer, Sachi and Zsofia were not so subtle as they pressed closer to cling their plea "You are planning to teach?" I tried not to sound astounded. "There are no teacher desks, you will be on your feet for hours." "I'll be careful," he promised. WD and I exchanged frustrated looks and I started to put together a pre-work plan that would hopefully give Steve time to treat and rest his back before he put it to a stress test.

"Then let's do this," I told him and the WDA wagged their approval. "Take some more tylenol right now. Put Puff in oxygen and make but do not serve breakfasts. Take of pounding hot shower. Then come and lie on the heating pad for 30 minutes. Then you can, if you feel ready, get up for an hour or so to do what you can...and then back to the heating pad and bed for half an hour. Retake the pain meds every 4 hours and for dogs sake, take some with you tonight."

With the help of the WDA, all VERY good timekeepers and nurses, Steve stuck pretty close to the routine I had outlined. It seemed to manage the pain...just about the time he was starting to feel debilitated, it was time to lie back on the heat. The White Dogs rested when he did and oversaw his activities when he ws up...making sure that he remembered to move slowly and carefully. When he winced or sucked in air from a mismovement, every pup cringed. At White Dog's insistence we did experiment and discovered that his pain was better soothed by the heating pad than by the ice pack.

NO ONE was happy as Steve put on work clothes and when he cried out twisting to put on socks the Army prepared to block the door to prevent his leaving. We wait now, thunderstorm making the pack even more nervous for 11pm when he calls us to say he is in the car heading home.

The WDA already plans to have the heating pad warming, a tall glass of water waiting, and the pain meds bottle within easy reach. We ask the Universe to keep him from aggravating the inflammed and angry back and to bring about a recovery quickly.

"He is so stubborn," White Dog sighed. "He should go to the doctor."
"Sweet Girl, he is like an Army of White Dogs I know, especially the leader. None of you ever asks to go to the vet. If it hurts enough he WILL give in and go but he won't go before really avoiding it."

June 21, 2016

White Dog uttered a command bark. "Um guys? I don't think dad is down on the floor to play. I am pretty sure you should be a LOT more gentle and give him space. And for dog's sake Sachi, STOP standing on him! You, too, Zso!"

Steve and I were on our way out to run errands. He was on the front steps and turned back to toss the newspaper he had just fished out of the rose bush onto the sunporch before I shut the door...a simple action. There was a look of absolute shock and then he doubled over with a gasp, clearly in intense pain. "My BACK!"

We backtracked into the house, Steve leaning on my shoulder and I body checked the Army excited that we had decided not to go. Steve sank to the floor, rocking in his misery.

"Let's get you into the bedroom where you can lie down," I suggested. The thought of clambering to his feet and moving through the house was more that he was able to even process at that moment. "No, just put the little pillow from the couch under my head and leave me here."

The White Dogs clustered around him, sniffing and diagnosing. White Dog suggested the ice pack, which we got. And Traumeel, the homeopathic natural relief for pain and inflammation. We keep them in the house for both humans and the WDA. Steve's hands were shaking as he took the tablets and drank water.

"Do you want me to call the doctor?" I asked already knowing that he would respond with a let's-see-how-things-go-first answer. He shifted to lie on the ice pack with his legs up, knees bent, a kind of yoga position. He keened softy...the WDA settled in protective nursing positions aroud him and Zsofia took up his song.


June 20, 2016

White Dog came into the office and tapped my leg. "I am so proud of the Baby," she told me. "Someday she is going to be a compassionate and giving Queen. Quietly come with me and see."

Puff was not having a good day. We have learned to live moment-to-moment with my Little Old Lady who is such a fierce Warrior. Some days she pushes back at the multitude of ailments fighting to sap her strength and conquer her and she is awesome in her abilities; other days, the battle takes everything she has and her exhaustion flattens her and drips from her furs. It is on those days that we draw closer and add extra loving strength...but we also whisper that we will understand if she decides to surrender.

Puff had been carefully arranged for comfort and was stretched out in hr bed. She was restless in a fidgety sort of way and although the water bowl was right beside her, she had to be encouraged to take drinks.

Lately, I have found her more willing to long deep drinks if I hold her in my arms and hold a bowl to her lips. She still voraciously prefers to eat on her own...and never says "no" to treats.

I followed White Dog down the hall to the bedroom. Lying on our bed, head hanging down to nearly touch Puff in hers, was Zsofia. She had kept watch for nearly the entire evening according to WD. "Zso, sweet baby girl," I said to her, "you are so wonderful keeping Puff company and making sure she is safe. As long as I am here, let's offer the matriarch some more water, what do you think?"

As I lifted Puff into my arms and reached for the small bowl of water I had specially placed on the nightstand, Zsofia hopped off of the bed and went outside. Puff took a long drink and I resettled her. I thought Zsofia had done her duty and was now once again among the rest of the White Dog Army, but as I stood to go back to the office, Zsofia bounded back through the dog door and resettled into her place on the bed.

Reaching for the treat jar on the headboard, I told her, "You might need a little something if you mean to keep nursing her." And I gave her a treat. Puff lifted HER head..."And of course, you, too!"...and White Dog, in the doorway, swished her tail. "Yes, you DID bring this all to my attention. Have a cookie." As I screwed the lid back on I offered a final treat to Zso, "just because."


June 19, 2016

White Dog and the White Dog Army salute and celebrte dads everywhere who love their children and who work every single day to be there for them in every way. Happy Fathers' Day.

To our very special dad...