November 26, 2015

White Dog, YoYoMa, Puff, Bella, Sachi, Zsofia, Nilla, Ferguson, Benson, Steve and I try to remember to be thankful each and every day. There is so much for which we are grateful. We do not struggle for the essentials of life...we have food and shelter and safety. It s our privilege to be able to pursue our passion and to live in a place where we are allowed to champion change. We have each other.

In a way those are all givens and so easily part of the background noise of life, we ARE thankful but OF COURSE it is our blessing; it is destiny.

But we are enriched with a rarer treasure yet: An Army of not just white dogs but of caring loving hearts that provide encouragement and support and strength. We have friends who are heart family to "have our backs" and rally the troops and shield us from all manner of evil with their prayers and powerful thoughts. And who hold our paw when we fear or hurt or need.

Even though our family's celebration will wait until Saturday, tonight we sit together and give thanks for the incredible good fortune that has brought us together as a family. Ours is truly a story of miracles.

The White Dog Army wishes for each of you, dear ones, safety, peace, a warm home and heart filled with thanks. We hope that your day was one of togetherness and sharing...and that you offered a prayer for those without someone to care or someplace to call home. We ask that the Universe always provide you with bounty enough to reach out a hand to those in need. And as you close you eyes to sleep this night, we ask that your last thought of the day be one of thankfulness.

Happy Thanksgiving.

November 25, 2015

White Dog told the "new" kids, Benson, Nilla and Ferguson, "Better get used to wonky things as long as you are a member of the White Dog Army. We don't always follow the norm."

YoYoMa and Puff napped calmly without interest; the newbies paced back and forth in fascination and amazement as we brought in boxes, sorted items, checked off lists, and carted things off to the cars.

White Dog continued her commentary, "Yep. Every other family in America is making pies, and wrapping tamales, and baking bread. You know, getting ready for tomorrow's big feast. Here, WE get to organize packout for the Craft Fair event Paws To People is hosting on Friday."

"Just what decade are you living in, Little White Dog of My Heart?" I asked her. "Believe me, MOST families in America are not making pies or wrapping tamales or baking bread. Granted they are preparing a little more modern version of this celebration of thanks, but very few fit the picture you paint. pretty much no one is skinning eels like on the first Thanksgiving." (Ummmm, eel, Yo muttered in his sleep) "The White Dog Army and our family will not be cheated, OUR day to honor tradition by sitting together and sharing gratitude and bounty will be on Saturday, that is all."

"This is kind of fun," Nilla admitted. "Yeah, don't you just love getting to look in everything?" Sachi agreed. "If we help can we have some of those caramel apples on the sunporch?" Zsofia asked, her face pressed against the closed front door. "Um, no." Steve responded. "Unless you want to use your allowance to purchase one." "SOME kind of treats?" she pleaded. "Maybe we can find something."

Ferguson wandered out from his spot in the kitchen. "You should be helping because this is important to raise money to save lives and to encourage people to understand how important it is to support their local community." Steve looked at him and beamed. "So right, Buddy!"

So the idea of making pies was put on hold as we spent the day gathering together the signs and boxes and tents and necessaries. All of us worked together doing the prep work which will guarantee success and make the day seem effortless.

After, we shared a rare treat in our house...pizza. "You know my favorite part," said Benson said dropping his pizza crust as he spoke...Bella flew out of no where and snatched it up. "What, Sweet Boy," I encouraged him. "When Candace and momma were blowing up the balloons and tying them together.  The entire room was filled with bouncing balls and twirling ribbons. Made me want to do zoomies through them."

White Dog nodded. "My point. How many families do you think did THAT today?" "Maybe, my love, it will become the new normal for pre-Thanksgivng Day."


November 23 and 24, 2015

Thanks to Sonya, Ferg's foster mom, for this photo that I absolutely love.
White Dog and the rest of the White Dog Army looked nervously as Steve clipped on Ferguson's leash to take him to Dr. Julia for his surgical followup. "Don't worry," I promised, "he WILL be home with us when we return." Their looks were not those of total belief but they knew in their hearts that I would keep my word.

At the vet's office Ferguson allowed Dr. Julia to actually put her fingers in his mouth and lift up his lip. Of course, Steve held him in a tight loving embrace. He has been draining from the surgical site but that was to be expected and was not a bad thing. "He looks like he is healing well," Dr. Julia encouraged. "Is he eating all right?" "Ravenously," Steve replied. "Using both sides of his mouth."

"The draining will continue for a while. I froze the tissue during surgery so there is some sloughing but unless he starts to swell or it becomes discolored or tender all is good. What is with his eye?"

Fergus has been squinting. We have written it off to allergies or just the trauma of his face being pulled and stretched during surgery. "Let's take a closer look," she said.

The amazing thing to me about veterinarians is that they have an incredibly wide range of knowledge about different species and deal with their issues from snout to tail. She put drops into his eye to dilate them and took out her scope. "Wow," I said, "I am in awe. MY doctor would have written me a referral and then stopped looking at my face altogether for the rest of my exam." She laughed. "Don't see any ulcers or tears. Let's try medicated drops and see what happens. Let me get some for you."

The histology report had not come back yet. So we tabled any real discussion awaiting confirmation. "I will call if it comes in this afternoon or tomorrow," Dr. Julia promised. "I want to see Ferguson again next week."

There was much excitement when we pulled up and Ferguson jumped out of the van.

Continuing the story...

Tuesday early afternoon, Dr. Julia called. The report was back. I took a deep breath and White Dog called the Army around us. Steve and Candace were not home.

It was a good side of bad news conversation. Ferg does NOT have melanoma, rather his oral cancer cells are of the squamous type. The good news is that these cells do not generally spread into other body parts. However there is a medium to high risk that they will reoccur and will move into surrounding bone and tissue. How long before reoccurance is an unknown. It is a slower growing disease but can have bursts of activity. Our vet froze the area as she excised the tumor which is an effective treatment for now.

Monday we will sit with her after doing full skull x-rays (although he had a series done during his Summer bout with horse nettle addiction, those did not show any issue with his jaw or palate not even the tumor just removed) and chart a course of action. The situation is still bad but somehow seems a little better than what we were thinking before the report.

Hope...you are such a beautiful bird with such a sweet song.


November 22, 2015

White Dog looked out of the window and sighed. It was a noise of expected sadness, the mood of Autumnal loss, followed by "FINALLY!" as she gathered herself, leapt off of the chair and ran to scratch at the front door.

Steve understood. He opened the front door. White Dog bolted in front of him to do joyful zoomies all through the leaves.

Later, the others would have their opportunity but this was Leaves Drop Day, the day she has been anticipating for nearly two weeks.

Leaves, not grass, color our front yard green on this, Leaves Drop Day.

November 21, 2015

White Dog, Zsofia, Sachi and Nilla supervised Steve as he worked in the office. They tried to act as if they had no idea of the splendor slowing roasting in the oven, but every so often Steve would catch one of them raising their head just to inhale the aroma filling the house.

Ferguson was not so subtle. The minute Steve put the turkey into the oven to roast, our boy curled up to nap in front of the oven, basking in the warmth generated and guarding the treasure within.

With Ferg's oral melanoma, we have spent the weekend making adjustments to his diet to use nutrition and holistic health as a means to slow the disease. More protein and no sugars was Dr. Julia's suggestion. Additional research has added vitamin rich dark green veggies, a mushroom compound, turmeric (which already spices all of the White Dog Army regular meals), garlic.

Our grocery was offering a holiday sale on fresh organic whole turkeys so Steve picked up two large birds..one for our traditional meal later in the week. And one for a change of pace for the WDA...with the largest portion to be used in preparation of Ferguson's special diet. That bird was in the oven, stuffed with red cabbage and apples to keep it moist. It DID smell wonderful.

When the timer dinged, Steve was preceded by a blizzard of white that raced him to the kitchen to join Fergus. There was a pack of  faces pressed against the oven window and wagging tails blocking Steve from even getting close to the oven door.

"You gotta let me check the bird," he told them but no one moved. He put on the oven mitts. "Come on, everybody, move!" Nothing. "Guys! Really! There will be no sample tastes if I can't get the roaster out of the oven." At that the Army fell behind the threshold to the kitchen door, the go-to place when we are doing stove things. Except for Ferguson; he was NOT leaving his post.

"Ferguson, I need you to move, too." Reluctantly Steve's devoted boy moved a step away. "No further Bud." Steve walked him back to the laundry room gate and shut it when he was on the other side. Ferg's look was one of disappointment. "You will get a bite, don't worry."

Finally, Steve was able to turn off the dinging timer and open the oven door. The Army started to press but Steve's "Ahhnnnttahhh" stopped them until he had lifted the pan to the stovetop and closed the door.

When he removed the roaster lid, the escaping steam filled the kitchen with a most delicious cloud. Ferguson whimpered his anticipation. Steve tested the bird. "Needs a little more time, almost there, though"

He pulled back the skin on a thigh and sliced off  good sized chunk of turkey. The crowd went wild. He placed it on a plate and shooed the WDA back so that he could return their protein to the oven for finishing.

Then he sliced nine strips of the thigh meat. "Ferguson first," he said as he distributed a taste to each member of the White Dog Army. It met with unanimous approval.

He reset the timer and Ferguson resettled at his post in front of the oven. "The countdown is on," I nodded at the WDA settling around the living room where they could watch Ferguson watching the bird. "They really expect you are going to divvy it all up among them when the timer goes off next."

Steve nodded. "I know. Especially my boy."

"Imagine their joy when they realize we are going to do this AGAIN later in the week."


November 20, 2015

White Dog moved aside so Benson could lay his head in my lap and grunt his dissatisfaction. "What is it Big Boy," I asked as I cupped his ears and massaged his shoulders. He looked pointedly at the treat bag.

"Sweet Ben, you had treats just an hour ago. Dinner is not for a while yet."

He turned to thoroughly scan my side cart. I knew what he was looking for. "We finished my coffee at breakfast, Bud." Benson is the newest member of the White Dog Army Coffee Club, started by YoYoMa and which now includes Yo, Sachi, Zsofia, Nilla, and Benson. Our morning habit is to share my half cream half coffee morning elixir. Each of the four-legged members gets two sips (or gulps if they thrust their snooter in far enough) and this two-legger gets the rest. Nilla and Benson constantly rally to change the rules to all day access but to no avail.

He got up and made a circuit of the living room floor, snoofling in hopes of finding an escaped treat crumb. When he turned up nothing, he came back to sit before me, grunted again, then gave me his belly for a tummy rub.

"Better than a steak, right?" I teased as I scratched and rubbed and he closed his eyes in bliss. The work "steak" prompted him to raise his head and check that I wasn't making an incredible offer.

Zsofia came in and plopped down on the floor next to him, she began gnawing on a stick she had brought in with her. Benson rolled back over to see if it was worth asking to share. He did not get the chance; Zsofia picked up her stick and trotted back outside.

He excitedly got up and pushed his face against me as I lifted my water glass and took a huge swallow. "What some?" I offered. He sniffed and sighed again.

"Poor baby," I said and he stood front legs on my lap to reach my face. "It IS that time of year when it seems like all you can think about is food." He wagged and moved his face against my cheek. I furtively looked around the room...every other pup was napping.

Stealthily I moved my hand to the treat jar and without moving it unscrewed the lid. I shifted my hips ever so slightly so I could reach one of the training nuggets with my fingers. Slowly I brought my hand out and moved toward my boy. I formed my lips into a silent, "Just for you!"

There was a movement to my left. Bella was sitting and doing her begging dance. As I shifted my perspective I realized the entire White Dog Army was now lined up for an extra treat...including Benson who was still swallowing his "secret surprise."


November 19, 2015

Ferguson our brave boy with the magnificent smile
White Dog looked at me suspiciously as Steve and I walked in the door. We were flooded by White Dogs looking for their brother.

Sunday night, Steve noticed a bump on Ferguson's upper gum. It was not painful to his boy when he touched it but Steve knows Ferg has a history of horrible dental issues so Monday first thing we called Dr. Julia. Ferguson was eating voraciously and even chewed on that side so we were comfortable making an appointment for later in the week, with the caveat that we could call if it got nasty looking or painful.

We all thought that we were going in to look at a gum infection or possibly an abscessed tooth when we loaded our quiet one into the van.

We laughed when Dr. Julia and Margaret came into the exam room. Our vet, having dealt with Ferg's snap before, seriously asked "Am I going to need to sedate him to see into his mouth?" Steve picked his best bud up in his arms and placed him on the table. "Nope, I will hold him and roll back his lip so you can see."

That is where the fun ended. The exam took about 45 seconds. It was not an abscess; it was a tumor. And from the change in Dr. Julia's expression something serious. "OK," she told Margaret, "take him in the back and prep him. We will do surgery later this morning." Then she turned to us, "You can pick him up at the end of the day."

Tell me straight up is my motto, and she knows it. "Worst case?" I asked her. "Oral melanoma malignant. But we won't know until we remove it and see how good a margin I can get and then see what the histology report has to say."  "But you are already pretty sure that is what it is."

We returned home and were met by a White Dog Army confused by Ferguson's absence. "It is not good," I told them. "But he WILL be home this afternoon." Immediately the Army drew together as a pack. We all sat this way (except for Nilla, his Taiko Twin, who paced nervously around us), until Dr. Julia called around two.

She had been able to "debulk" the tumor but had not gotten good margins. The tissue and cells had been sent off for review and we would know by Monday. But she suspects the melanoma has spread to bone. We spoke briefly of options and prognosis and holistic supplements. When I hung up I turned to face the WDA and share the news...and long deep hugs.

I called Steve to tell him what we had already surmised but the confirmation which would, I knew shatter his heart...once again. Ferguson is Steve's best bud, sent by Taiko, Steve's heart dog stolen by pancreatic cancer, who was sent by the Mighty Quinn, that once in a lifetime daemon taken from Steve by a brain tumor. "What am I doing wrong?" he asked into the phone, barely able to keep his composure at school. "Maybe the better question is what are you doing so wonderfully well that the Universe sends you these lost and forsaken rescue boys found on the streets with no one to love them or care about their health or share their journey. You are their salvation in so many ways."

I turned my chair so I could continue talking to Steve...and to the White Dogs surrounding me. "This isn't over. Ferguson is not gone. How much time he has is unknown. It always is. We will continue doing just what we do every day. We will love each other. Appreciate each other. Share our ups and downs and ins and outs and victories and failures. We will embrace life."

When Steve pulled into the drive a little after six, he had Ferguson with him. We all expected Steve to carry in a drugged out victim. Ferguson leaped from the car and trotted up to the door. He was a bit overwhelmed at his welcome, including my lifting him into my arms and kissing his ear. There was no sign of the day he had just "endured." Steve lifted his lip to show me that the work had been done and a sutured hole needed to heal.

One of the things Dr. Julia and I discussed was immediately cutting his glucose intake because it is well documented that sugars feed cancer cells. I had already given that thought. Steve and I quickly cobbled together a meal of fresh fish, coconut oil, green beans and turmeric. Steve had been directed at pickup to only lightly feed our boy so he only received half a normal meal. "No more kibble, Sweet Boy," Steve told him. Ferguson complained not one bit and actually asked for seconds. Steve patted his head. "Not tonight, you are still recovering from surgery. We do not want you to get sick." Ferg head butted him to show his annoyance.

We have explored our options and are pretty sure we know the course we will choose to follow but will wait for the report and visit with Dr. Julia on Monday before starting on this path in earnest.

Tonight we still cluster close and thank the Universe for each other.


November 18, 2015

White Dog was sitting with me as we read emails. I opened one, read it completely, stared at it for a long time, took a deep breath and saved it. WD looked at me.

"You know all of the reasons," I told her. "Too many. I won't even share this with dad. You know what my heart feels but it would be unfair." She rested her head against me. And we went on with the morning.

Later, Steve joined me to work in the office. White Dog tapped his leg. He turned around. "Momma has something she wants you to read," she told him. "Something you wrote?" he asked looking at me expectantly. "No and White Dog is wrong, you don't need to read it." "What?' he pressed, his curiosity now piqued. WD scratched crazily at my leg. I sighed and opened my email folder.

"This. I am not asking anything. I know all of the arguments and agree. I wasn't even going to bring this up." "Show me."

It was a letter from Angie, the woman who helped bring Gentle Storm to us. This little girl was a mill breeder who was loaded with health issues and a tremendous timidness. Our Stormer came a long way forward and then left us suddenly. Angie wrote:

It’s been awhile since sweet Storm went on to her next adventure over the bridge. I still think of her often and how lucky she was to know your loving care...

We took in 2 female Eskimo’s who were both pregnant and were put up for sale at an auction house. Both 7yrs old. No one wanted them and so the auction house called us. Of course we took them and a few other sad pups who were discarded. Tragedy struck all of us when the puppies were born. Between the two dogs there were 11 puppies and all of them were still born or died shortly after being born...

But this is not the worst of the situation. It was most heartbreaking for the mothers, Opal and Pearl. They tried so very hard to save their puppies and they were excellent mothers. They were devastated to lose them and they paced and cried. As did we. The birthing environment was too much for them and we moved them back to the kennel where, sadly they found peace among the noise. In light of what they have been through and how difficult it is for us to place Eskimos, we have been advocating for these dogs quite diligently. Opal was present at our recent benefit gala and Theresa told her story and mentioned that she needs a home. Not a single taker, unfortunately.

I don't know if you would be interested or in a position to adopt one or both dogs but in my heart I know they would be loved by you. So I had to ask...Much love my friends.     

When I called her, Angie was at the airport in Seattle picking up one of their rescues who was being returned because the family didn't have as much time as they thought for her. Tomorrow when she is back in Colorado, she will call and we will finalize bringing Opal and Pearl to join the White Dog Army. Yes, Steve argued it is two additional dogs. Yes, it will be an adjustment. But we always manage and these girls have been through so much. I tried to be the voice of reason and practicality but it isn't always about that I was reminded.

Yet another one of the twelve billion nineteen reasons that I give thanks for the man who shares my Universe...

...and for the Little White Dog of My Heart who is mighty proud of herself for orchestrating this.


November 17, 2015

White Dog sat with me on the bed as I matched and folded together pairs of socks then sorted them into "his" and "hers." Zsofia came and rested her chin on the bed near the pile to be done and wooed that she wanted to help.

"Oh no, my itty bitty baby girl," I told her, "you will grab a sock and run outside with it. To prove me wrong, she pulled out a sock and handed it to me. "Thank you." I looked through the mound until I found its mate and then added it to the pairs.

White Dog had turned to rest her head on the pillow, and to presumably watch over the finished work. Zsofia continued to hand me single socks which we then mated. I was surprised, the Dark One made it nearly five minutes before she wanted to play "Tug" instead of handing over the sock. I sent her outside with Sachi and turned to White Dog.

White Dog, it turns out, had been "helping" too. She had carefully unfolded the matched pairs and resorted them with other socks and then folded them neatly back over as a new Eske style of mismatched socks.  She was quite proud of her improvement to the human's dressing potential and put her paw protectively on top of a pair when I tried to right the pairing. I sighed and turned back to the pile.

Steve is going to wonder why half of his socks are mismatched...the ones I did as I continued I put right at my side to guarantee they remained my slow, boring, organized, by the rules way.

I know what White Dog will tell him. "The ones I rearranged are for those days when you feel as free as an Eskie but don't want to shout it too loudly."  Who knows? Maybe he might just save a few for those wild break all the rules days.

November 16, 2015

White Dog did not share her sister's enthusiasm and nimbly jumped out of the way as Zsofia went charging for the dog door with the howl "Snnnooooooowwwwww!" echoing through the house. She got a little interest from Ferguson who wanted to go out and see...and from Nilla who came back in sputtering, "It is sleet not snow! It is wet and cold."

In fact this was a day of confusing weather. The temperatures were not cold enough to sustain a real winter blast but Mother Nature was in the mood, anyway. So we had moments of windy blue sky that surrendered to flat greyness that dumped a cold steady rain. The White Dog Army was not happy with this fun stopper; they were bored and not even the Darkest White One wanted to go out in THAT. The sleet that followed made the WDA barking mad as they gathered at the windows to shout their weather dissatisfaction.

The answering hail sent YoYoMa, White Dog, and Benson to huddle at my feet. Sachi and Zso wooed back challenges to the pinging bits of ice while Puff and Nilla slept curled on the heat registers. Bella nervously paced and Ferguson sought the security of Steve's lap.

Then slowly, almost miraculously, the noise stopped and and the chunks of ice became big fluffy flakes. A dance of just a few at first, the snowfall became a serious display. And an opportunity, so Zsofia thought, for winter games. Out she dashed.

She was quite puzzled that the snow was disappearing before it hit the ground, neither the air nor the ground were cold enough for a real snow. I watched her, nose upturned, staring into the sky and BEGGING for a drift to plow through...

and then the snow turned back to rain...and my very wet Dark One came in to shake and lament the season.  "Almost. And Soon." White Dog comforted our Baby. "Soon."