Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Briggs

Today my bestest boy would have been 11 years old.


I don't know where you are now buddy, but I hope you're having a good time. We all miss you here at home.

View slideshow

Monday, January 28, 2008


Well readers, I have to admit that since Briggs died, I have not felt a lot of overwhelming need to take photos, 0r caption them with funny shit. In fact, I've not even picked up my camera since the last attempt, except to lend it to a fellow photographer in need. I guess I lost my muse.


But! The Brady Bunch is nearly 3 months old and we got updates from their new mums and dads. I thought you'd like to see them.

Bobby, now known as McGee:
His new parents say: "Here are some new pics of Bobby McGee - he got to go to White Rock today. he is doing really well and growing fast. he loves to CHEW & cuddle and has learned to sit."

Cindy, who now goes by Jynx:
Jynx's parents say: "It has really only been 3 weeks since we brought Jynx home. The name stuck pretty quickly with us and her. She and Charlie get along famously. She rarely leaves his side. They chase each other around the living room and the back yard. Charlie will take away whatever Jynx is playing with so she will chase him. They are really fun to watch. Whenever Charlie lies down Jynx figures it is her place to curl up beside or on top of him. He doesn't seem to mind. When Charlie gets too much for her, she hides under a chair or behind a pair of human legs, and waits until he calms down. Just when he seems to have lost interest, she will leap out and attack him, and the rumbling will start again."

Jan has become Jazzy
Jazz's parents say: "We are having a lot of fun with Jan (now Jazzy), she has settled in really well and enjoying the walks in our woods – she has even seen deer! She is a really quick learner and now comes, sits, lays down and shakes a paw for us. She doesn’t like rain or cold weather very much but I assume that will change as she gets older. We also have her lined up for puppy kindergarten mid February which I know she will really love as she loves people and I am sure other dogs."

Marsha changed her name to Sophie:
Sophie's parents say: "She is very very good indeed...20 # and there is some question about her hearing...she hears, but sometimes does not even react to a sharp sound, will get it checked...but she joins the other dogs at the door if someone is leaving the house...and plays hard with Shira and uses Kirby like a nanny to take a nap with..."

Mike favours Seamus

Seamus' mum says: "Seamus Michael attends Kinderpuppy class on Tuesday nights. Last Tuesday was his third class where he learned "leave it" very quickly. He can sit and lay down pretty consistently. He's a pretty sharp little guy. Almost as sharp as his teeth. He is getting along well with our other dog Nosey except in the mornings when Seamus has his highest level of energy and Nosey is still grumpy, not having had his morning coffee. Nosey occasionally growls and shows his scary teeth face when Seamus overdoes it, but aside from those instances, they play very well together and like to cuddle up by the heater together.
"It seems to us that Seamus has grown quite a bit in the last few weeks. He has amazingly long legs. (see photo) He is still very, very sweet-tempered."

Oliver now calls himself Mitch
Mitch's parents say: "All is well! We changed his name to Mitch. He got his booster shots at 12 weeks and has no troubles visiting the Vet. He's put on a few pounds and a few inches. He gets along with our older dog, Nelson."

Picasso has morphed into Loki
Loki's parents didn't send photos, but they said: "Loki (picasso) is doing great! he is so inquisitive and playful and has made good friends with some of the other dogs in my family. he has gained 5 pounds since we took him home (he now weighs 23 lbs) and he is growing fast. We are taking him in for his booster shot in the next 2 weeks, and then we start with puppy training classes, we are all very excited. Already he has enriched our lives so much."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

National 'Pick On Tweed' Day

But first ...

"Oh hey there, little fella, whatcha looking at?"


Ah. Gotcha.

I do believe Woo would be beyond ecstatic if I got him his very own boston terrier. But them things is nutso-hyper. Plus, little dogs are kinky as shit.

He will have to be content with his very own Piper.

Who, by the way, clearly got the memo about National Pick On Tweed Day.

In fact, just about everyone at the dog beach seemed to know what day it was.

After a while, he got pretty paranoid. Understandably, since he was accosted from all directions. Sometimes by somethingdoodles.

Poor Tweed.

We don't know why it was Pick On Tweed Day, but some things are just mysteries of nature and can't be explained. Like the mystery of why Woo jumps the way he does.

Woo scoffs at gravity.

Or he is part gazelle or something. Piper says other dogs don't jump like that. Other dogs, apparently, hydroplane.

But not Woo!

This is a funny photo of Cruz who is lovely, but not always swift.

It's been just over a week since I lost my heart dog, Briggs. Last Saturday morning the aftermath of his pancreatitis caused liver failure. Briggs woke me up from a nap to let me know he had soiled himself and he had turned completely yellow. We immediately went back to the vet, and we let my old man go. It was the hardest, most painful thing I have ever had to do all my 35 years, and his loss is the most haunting and hollow feeling I have ever known. And I thank Dr. Shaw at Kitsilano Animal Clinic for both trying to save my boy when being saved was an possibility, and being honest with me when it was Briggs' time to go.

I also would like to thank all of you, for your comments and emails and messages and cards and phone calls. I could never answer you all; it's not only painful to relive it but there were simply too many condolences. But please know that I appreciate each and every one of them, and while they are painful to read they are also very cathartic. Because every message tells me that my private Briggs was your public Red Dog, and that many of you loved him almost as much as I did. For a little dog with a troubled past and a too-short life, to be loved by so many is no small feat. And if I helped you all to love the World's Most Amazing Dog, then he has gotten as much love in his life as he had for me, and I hope it was enough for him. No dog deserves it more.

I would especially like to thank those many of you who donated to TDBCR in Briggs' honour. It's incredibly generous of you, and since I started the rescue 8 years ago because of my Briggs, it's a wonderful tribute to his time here with me. Thank you.

Lastly, there were two condolences I received that meant more to me than I can express. The first was from Katie, a newish veterinarian whom I've never met, who over the last 18 months or so has gone to lengths to help me sort out Briggs' various health problems, and championed me when I felt like we were losing the battle. She told me that Briggs lives on in her patients because she knows so much more about treating arthritis and pancreatitis thanks to her efforts to help me address his health problems.

The other was from my good friend Mike, who simply wished me peace in my heart, and quiet in my mind, and told me that while the pain may be bad now, over time it will fade and one day I will have both those things. And knowing that this is possible is what gets me up in the morning.

Briggs' collar sits over my monitor, and his soul sits in my heart. He was a good dog.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Little Border Collie That Could

couldn't anymore.

RIP Red Dog, known to his closest friends as Briggs.

January 29th 1997 to January 12th 2008.

"Death ends a life, not a relationship."

I was blessed to know him, and honoured to have him as a companion, and will miss him every day for the rest of my life.

May you all have a friend as honest as Briggs. Thank you for everything.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Good Days, Bad Days

I don't want to turn this blog into a diary. I myself can't stand people's diary-blogs, because unless the author is a very interesting and gifted writer, they mostly are full of externalized garbage that should have stayed firmly internalized. I am neither gifted nor all that interesting. But there are so many of you pulling for the Big Red Dog and this is the best way to keep you all updated. Plus, I need to put it somewhere. I'm sorry for giving it to all of you.

I promise, one of these days I will have the energy and spirit to take happy photos again.

Red Dog has developed some new complications. When I went to pick up the Three Buttheads from Cookie Uncle's yesterday, I brought RD along for the ride and noticed he was frantically licking his leg where the catheter had been inserted. Upon closer inspection (and a shave of the leg) on Cookie Uncle's living room floor, I realized there was something seriously wrong with his elbow. He had developed a very nasty decubitus ulcer, or what you may be familiar with as a "bed sore." I don't know about you, but I thought those were reserved for bed ridden old people.

Well, RD is a bed ridden old people. Four days of laying inert with fluid building up in his arthritic elbow caused an abscess which burst under all that licking. It is really rather disgusting and it smells bad as well. The tissue over his elbow has necrotized altogether.


Bed sores are serious business and don't like to heal too much. I'm ticked off that no one noticed it before this - including myself, since I am with him all the time, but I feel like one of the many veterinary professionals who have seen him about a thousand times since he got sick might have noticed this! OTOH, they were all pretty concerned with his pancreas and not his elbows, understandably. Also, he is a very hairy dog. His elbows are usually covered in the stuff.

The big black spot is necrotized (dead) tissue where the abscess began. The lesions to the left of it are where the abscess blew out. Gross huh? Just be thankful it's not scratch and sniff. Seriously.

We went back to the vet clinic today to have this thing flushed and to start him on yet another arsenal of drugs to combat this infection - Baytril, Metoclopramide, Torbugesic, Cefazolin, Tramadol, Clavamox ... I feel like I'm being assaulted with hard-to-pronounce words on a daily basis.

And the words get worse too. While we were at the vet clinic - today it was Dr. Shaw, since Terry left for vacation after diagnosing RD and yesterday was Dr. Burque's last day as the locum - the horrible phrase "Cushings Disease" was tossed at me as well. Every new set of medical eyes has something new to tell me about my dog, and Dr. Shaw pointed out the thin skin, thinning hair coat, muscle wasting and bloated abdomen, classic signs of a dog with hyperadrenacortisolism. Cushings Disease is a very common side effect of a dog on long term, high dose steroids, like Prednisone. You know, the drug that gives Red Dog the gift of being able to walk.

Cushings Disease is also a major facilitator of liver and pancreatic issues. The margarine container? Just a red herring. For all intents and purposes, by giving RD prednisone every day for long periods, we made a horrible deal with devil - your dog can walk, lady, but it'll kill him. I knew that of course, but I never believed it, if you know what I mean. And even when I believed it, I didn't think it would happen to my dog. And in the rare moments when I chose to acknowledge it would happen to my dog, it always happened a really long time off. Except it's never a long time off - even when it's a really long way away, it gets here eventually.

You see this rock? I'm wedged between it and a hard place. He's off the steroids now, which means in another week or less - assuming he lasts that long - he won't be mobile. Already he is rocked right back on his hindquarters to take the pressure off his elbows and has to be carried down the stairs again to the truck. On Monday I seriously f*cked up my back lifting him into the car, so it's getting harder and harder to manage him.

Not one of the good days. It's a bad day. I started to wonder today if I was doing my dog any favours by trying to keep him alive. Dr. Shaw warned me that though RD appears to be improving, to remember that the pancreatic / digestive enzymes that were released into the abdominal cavity have done a lot of damage to his internal organs and the resultant scarring could make things unpleasant. That's assuming he doesn't relapse, and assuming an embolism in his lungs or heart doesn't kill him first.

After a while you start to feel sort of tapped out in the emotional department. My bank account reached that breaking point a while ago (and that just adds a bigger emotional cargo to the already huge load, you know - like maybe if I could afford to do something else I could fix him). I'm starting to feel claustrophobic in my home as I never leave, unless it's to take RD to yet another vet appointment. Now I have to keep my eagle eye on him to make sure he doesn't lie on his bed sore. It's just one hit after another after another and it, you know, sucks.


It's not that I'm giving up on my dog, because he sure isn't giving up on me, or on himself. And doG knows I don't want him to die. But I'm starting to really wonder how much more he can take, and how much more *I* can take. Eventually I have to leave my house. My other dogs need to get out, as they are going stir crazy as well. Life has to return to some semblance of normal soon. This Limbo place is a shitty place to be and sooner or later, we're going to have to move on to some place else. I'm just not sure where it's going to be or how we're going to get there yet.

But again, I have to thank all of you, friends of Red Dog, for your kind words and prayers and vibes and black magic and everything else you've been sending our way. And to my "real life" friends, who let me bounce this sadness and anger off them every time I need to - Fred and Robyn and my sister and especially Mike, who knows exactly where I'm coming from. And Dove and Cheryl, who run a dog walking company and generously offered to take the Three Buttheads out for a good hike tomorrow and tire them out for a bit, and would not take a penny in return.

And Cookie Uncle - well, I wouldn't have gotten this far without him. All you ladies who failed to bid on him when you had the chance ... silly ladies. Cookie Uncle brings me food, because he knows I'm not eating. He comes and walks the other dogs to get them out of my hair, and when we thought RD was going to die, he took the other dogs home with him so I could have some peace. He drove me and RD to Critical Care because he knew I wasn't in a position to do it myself. And if yesterday had been the day we let RD go, he would have taken us there and been with us through it as well. He's been a truly great friend.

As for Red Dog ... there's only one person complaining in this house, and that's me. RD hasn't murmured a word of protest, even though we keep shaving him and poking him and cramming things down his throat. He's tough as nails, this dog is.

He's a border collie.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Worst Night Ever

Yesterday we went to the animal critical care facility to get an emergency ultrasound done on Red Dog, because we were at Day 4 of lethargy, temperature, diarrhea and anorexia and a new complication - laboured breathing. My dog had turned into a sack of wheeze and shitting. His face was sunken and he was almost unresponsive.

The prognosis was terrible. I don't remember everything the kind Internist told me, because I was trying not to collapse in a heap on the floor in the diagnostic room at the time, but three sentences kept rocketing through my brain:

  • "This is the single worst case of pancreatitis I have seen in my entire career; on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst, I'd give your dog a 10."
  • "If you had unlimited funds, like thousands of dollars, to spend on blood transfusions and ICU ... I'd still give him less than a 10% chance to live."
  • "Take him home and say goodbye. There is a good chance he will not live through the night."
So last night, I took Red Dog home to say good bye. We removed the catheter and said so long to the IV fluids. I told him it was okay if he had to go and that I'd miss him like crazy. I wanted to say my goodbyes, because if he did make it through the night the vet and I were to facilitate his passing in the morning. For most of the night I sat up with him and then, annoyingly, I fell asleep at about 4AM. I woke with a start this morning, certain he had died while I slept.

But he hadn't. He was, in fact, at the water bowl getting a drink. And when he saw I was awake, he went to the door and asked if he could please go outside. We went for a little walk to the end of the block and back. He growled at a passing dog and had a pee on his favourite tree. He said hello to one of our neighbors.

When we got back inside, he ATE FOOD. And he has eaten every time I've offered it to him since. He then went about the meticulous task of cleaning himself. His catheter site needed to be licked clean. His shaved belly (from the ultrasound) is itchy, so he needed to clean that too. And he cleaned up the floor where he had drooled while eating.

"Piss off bitch. No one needs to see my bed head."

He is not out of the woods yet. All the things the Internist told us yesterday are still true - there is an unidentifiable fluid leaking into his abdominal cavity and the very real possibility that a thromboembolism may kill him is quite strong. But euthanasia for RD is not in the cards today. I called my vet and told her about his change and she said he was rallying and trying to live. She said "It is not yet his time to die."

It may be his last Hurrah. Sometimes dying people and animals have one more spell of good before they give in completely to the bad. RD, that good, kind dog, may be giving me one or two more days to make my peace with his passing. But he might be simply living as well.

I have cautious hope. I'm preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. But I now know that if it is the worst, Red Dog will tell me when it's time for him to go. He will make that choice for himself and spare me the heart breaking task. So all we can do is wait and see.

Thank you, all of you, for your thoughts and well wishes. I'm sure they are helping.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Happy Freakin' New Year

Or, how to kill your dog with margarine.

Master RD is one sick dog and he wants your prayers, good vibes or whatever you subscribe to, cosmically, sent his way.

On Friday night while I was out with friends, RD got into the recycling and cleaned out an old margarine container. On Saturday morning he began to vomit. When he refused breakfast and got the shakes, I called the vet. Some dogs refuse the odd meal. RD is not one of those dogs.

At the vet we learned that RD has suffered an attack of acute pancreatitis; its underlying cause may lay in the prolonged use of the prednisone that keeps him walking, but the onset was most likely the margarine, as consumption of fat often precipitates an attack like this. I know you readers are all smart enough to Google "pancreatitis" but here's the short version - RD's pancreas is digesting itself.

The result is one very, very sick RD. He's nauseous, he's weak, he's vomiting blood. Thanks to my wonderful vet and to Cookie Uncle, RD is hooked up to an IV line that is hooked up to my curtain rod, and he spends his days shaking and panting and puking on his dog bed. He's a good boy - he stays where I tell him to, and he doesn't touch his IV line because I asked him not to. It's not fair, he's such a great dog. Good health hates RD.

But I know you all love him. His eleventh birthday happens on the 29th of this month, and we want to be sure he's around to see it. Please send him your well wishes and keep my boy in your thoughts. He could sure use 'em.