Zoe the Mighty Hunter

Winter Storm Ulmer has been an incredible storm so far — we woke up to rain that quickly changed to sleet, then snow. The atmospheric pressure keeps dropping — Pueblo, Colorado, set an unofficial low pressure record already this morning, and it’s supposed to drop further.

But even in the middle of a bomb cyclone, animals gotta eat. And so we had a robin and a squirrel at the feeders this morning.

And there are those who must keep watch…

The feeder is in the top of the photo, Zoe is waiting in ambush behind the steps, as my husband took this picture from inside our sunroom.

We called her in after we took this photo. If an animal is trying to eat in this, it must be really desperate. And Zoe was glad to come.

Just after we took this shot, five hours into this storm, we had a significant peel of thunder.

Stay home if you can, and stay safe.

Zoe, the Pet Therapy Dog

After training  (Zoe the Corgi’s First Day of Pet Therapy) and an initial evaluation, Zoe and I went to our final Pet Therapy evaluation today. Considering that Zoe is my third dog in the program (Dog as God’s Messenger), I was surprisingly nervous. I worried that I might forget something or that rules might have changed while I wasn’t looking.

Things started off well. We met Lyn, our evaluator, at hospice, and proceeded to visit the staff. We always try to see all the staff we can at hospice. It takes a special person to work there, and they deserve all the warm fuzzies we can give them. Zoe was her charming self, her little stub of a tail wagging furiously as she dashed over to see her next new best friend.

Once all the hospice staff had been suitably loved, we walked down the hall to see patients and family. As we approached our first room, we were surprised  by a little Scottie who came charging out of the room, barking to mark it’s territory. Zoe, startled and challenged, barked back.

I groaned inside as red-alert alarms went off in my brain. Pet Therapy dogs are not supposed to bark in the hospital. I corrected Zoe by giving her the “leave it” and “quiet” commands, but I also waited for Lyn to show us the door.

But Lyn just shrugged. While patients can bring pets into hospice, they are supposed to abide by the same rules as pet therapy dogs, and not bark in the building. This dog had startled Zoe, and barked a challenge. Zoe responded, but quieted almost instantly. No harm, no foul. Whew!

The rest of the visit went fine. We shared the love with patients and visitors. I didn’t make any mistakes. Lyn’s biggest concern was that Zoe pulled at the end of her leash in her eagerness to get to people. Since she weighs 22 pounds, it wasn’t as if she was going to pull loose and go tearing down the hall. With age and experience, and me gently reminding her, we agreed that she’ll settle down and save her energy for wagging her tail stub.

So it’s official: Zoe has earned her purple scarf, and is now a Pet Therapy dog.

Zoe the Corgi’s First Day of Pet Therapy

Zoe turned two yesterday, and so we were able to visit the hospital as a pet therapy team for the first time today.

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Don’t you just love the little corgi tongue sticking out?

I’m often asked what it takes for a dog to be a pet therapy dog. Requirements vary from program to program, but here’s the minimum for the pet therapy program at Lutheran Medical Center:

The dog has to be friendly to every person it meets.

It absolutely cannot growl, snarl or snap. If it does for any reason, it’s out.

It has to be well behaved — no jumping, lunging, or bark. Basic obedience is nice — sit, stay, settle, down — but not mandatory, as long as the owner has control of the dog at all times.

It can’t lick or give “kisses”. I know. I love them, too, but mouths are germy places, and that’s bad for people who are sick already. More surprising, it’s not dog hair that people are allergic to, it is dog saliva. It’s just that the hair has saliva on it. So, no licking.

It must be able to take a treat gently.

It must pass a fecal screening to make sure it is free of parasites.

And finally, the one Zoe and I have been waiting for, the dog must be two years old.

When Zoe first came to us (A little corgi dropped in and wanted to stay.), she was a little skittish around men and other tall people. Hats and umbrellas freaked her out, too. I can’t blame her for being nervous — she’d had a lot of changes in her short life.

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Just a little worried…

But I could sense even then that she would be a great pet therapy dog if we could get her used to new things. So we started encouraging her to “say hello” to every person she came across. Treats may have been involved.

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We worked on “no kisses” after Zoe got over being shy.

The end result was visiting the hospital, with all it’s strange sights, sounds and smells, and greeting new people, some of whom who wear floppy gowns — and loving it. I was ready to leave before Zoe was.

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Why are we stopping?

Next up — being evaluated by other pet therapy program people to make sure I’m not biased or missing something. I don’t think she has any serious problems, but we’ll see…

Tour de Corgi

My daughter and I went to the 4th Annual Tour de Corgi festival in Fort Collins on Saturday. Tour de Corgi started a few years ago as a corgi meet and greet, and exploded into a major fundraiser for 4 Paws Pet Pantry, Low Riders of the West, and the Wyoming Dachshund and Corgi Rescue.

My photos don’t really do it justice, but I was having too much fun to take pictures. There were corgis everywhere. It was like seeing double.

Zoe meets her twin.

Zoe, center, meets her twin. Tegan is to the left.

Or triple.

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Zoe greets another new corgi friend.

Or hundred-iple.

Tour de Corgi Crowd

Hundreds of corgis and even more people met at Fort Collins’ Civic Center Park for a costume contest and corgi parade.

There were pounds of hounds and even more people.

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Zoe was so proud to be surrounded by her people — er — pupple. Or something.

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We brought Tegan along as a corgi groupie. She’s a mutt, but she might have a little corgi in her?

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Zoe was a pooped pup by the time we left. She collapsed in the center of the car.

Zoe totally relaxed

Tired but happy, Zoe had a well earned nap when we got home.

Zoe the Corgi Snores

Zoe is a small dog — I think she is the smallest dog we’ve ever had — just about 20 pounds. She is small enough to pass under Tegan, who is not a tall dog.

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Tegan and Darwin, each 35-40 pounds.

 

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Tegan and Zoe, who weighs 21 pounds.

 

Zoe pointy nose

Zoe has a pointy snout.

For a corgi, Zoe has a pointy little fox nose. When she sleeps, she likes to tuck her nose under something — a pillow, or a blanket, or your sleeve. It’s as though she’s worried that she’ll suddenly start to float off if she isn’t moored by her snout.

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Zoe is held in position by her nose under Tegan’s leg.

She likes to sleep on our bed, and she has taught Tegan to do so as well. Tegan stays at the foot of the bed, but Zoe rambles around and over everybody else. The obvious answer is to keep putting her back down at the bottom of the bed, but that requires waking up multiple times through the night to re-position her, so it happens only rarely.

Zoe often snores. For such a petite dog, she snores surprisingly loudly.

All of these factors came together last night when she stuck her little nose IN my ear, right up in the ear canal. And began to snore.

A little corgi dropped in and wanted to stay.

It was hard to lose our corgi, Darwin, but it was time. Still, we all missed him greatly. (The Gift Of the Dying Dog)

Then we got a call from our veterinary clinic, asking if we were ready to adopt another corgi. A relative of one of the staff at the clinic is going through a divorce, and moving to a smaller place. Too small for even a small dog. He didn’t want to give the corgi to the pound, if he could help it. Could we take the dog?

We were a little reluctant to take on another dog so soon after Darwin died. We were still recovering from watching the little skamp slowly decline.

More to the point, we already had Tegan, our year old corgi-Rottweiler-cattle dog-pit bull bundle of enthusiasm. (What went into this mutt?) Years ago we brought two dogs into our home one who didn’t get along. The result was ugly. So we were a little wary — once we said yes to Zoe, we’d be committed —  if these two dogs didn’t get along, we’d have a big problem.

Her owner said her name was Zoe. She was just a year old, and a little on the small side for a corgi — about 21 pounds. She’d been around a bunch of chihuahuas without incident, whom she was happy to let rule the house. The owner sent us some photos so we could see what Zoe looked like.

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He really didn’t want to take her to a shelter, but time was running out. He wanted to know that she was going to a good home.

After thinking about the temperaments of the two young dogs, we said yes. We’d work out any problems as they came up, but we couldn’t let her go to a shelter.

It took the better part of a month to hammer out the details, but finally, on the day after Halloween — All Saints Day — Zoe flew in from her old home.

The people at the airport Live Animal Pickup were wonderful. It was obvious that they tried to make the animal’s trip as stress free as possible. Even so, her flight was delayed, so she had to stay in her kennel for about 8 hours. She was stressed.

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We took her home, and introduced her to Tegan the Terror. Loud noises, being bounced around, needing to pee, ending in a strange place, with strange people — it had been a very hard day for a little dog. Zoe took one look at Tegan, twice her size, and bolted to hide under a chair. She showed her teeth to tell Tegan she’d had enough.

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Tegan responded with a play-bow so deep she was in danger of rolling over. Pawing the air, with little yips of excitement, Tegan coaxed Zoe out from her hiding place.

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They then started a game of chase that has lasted two months.

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Zoe starts the chase as often as Tegan does. They race at top speed around the yard and through the house.

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They take turns being chaser and chasee. They have worn paths in the lawn.

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They play tug-of-war.

 

 

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When they finally stop, they flop down next to each other. I think we can relax about how they get along.

Tegan and Zoe

Sometimes, you just have to trust that things will work out. And sometimes, they do.

May the New Year work out for you, and bring you unexpected friends.

 

The Gift Of the Dying Dog

Hemingway said that all true stories end in death. This, then, is a true story…

Autumn, 2011

My son wanted a dog of his own. We said no.  We already had two dogs. He only had two years before he went off to college. There was no point in getting him a dog that he was going to leave. I didn’t need to take care of three dogs.  The question was settled. We weren’t getting my son a dog.
Then my daughter started talking about a puppy at veterinary clinic where she worked. It was adorable, she said, a little corgi with big ears and inquisitive eyes.  And then she mentioned that it had been relinquished to the veterinary clinic because it had an incurable heart problem.  The clinic was trying to find somebody to take it so that its last days wouldn’t be spent in a kennel at the back of the clinic.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The prognosis was not good.  The puppy had patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) with reverse flow. Translated, patent ductus arteriosus means that a valve in his heart didn’t shut properly when he was born.  This open valve allows oxygen-poor blood from his body to mix with oxygen-rich blood from his lungs, diluting it.  Without treatment, dogs with this heart problem typically live just weeks to months.
By itself, PDA is fixable with surgery; the veterinarian would just operate and sew the valve shut. The problem is in the reverse flow.  In a small percentage of PDA cases, the blood vessels in the lungs thicken and narrow, causing the flow of blood to reverse from left to right, hence the name “reverse flow.” Once the blood vessels thicken, the veterinarians can’t shut the valve without forcing too much blood through the narrowed vessels. It would be like trying to force the flow from a garden hose through a straw – the extra blood would blow out the narrowed vessels.
But my family agreed that we couldn’t let the puppy live out its life without at least being able to lie in the grass, and watch the squirrels, even if he couldn’t chase them. And so we brought the puppy home. A Welsh corgi (are there any other kinds of corgi?) needed a Welsh name.  My son named him Darwin. It means “dear friend.”
A few days before we adopted Darwin, the veterinarian tried him on a new medication – Viagra, of all things.  Viagra was originally designed to treat pulmonary hypertension (“high blood pressure in the lungs” –  the problem causing the reverse flow).  Viagra just happened to have other, more profitable, side-effects. For Darwin, the drug changed his life from one of lying on his bed watching the world, to one of being out chasing those squirrels.  But we have no idea how long the improvement would last.
Darwin, of course, doesn’t know that he is dying. He’s a cheerful, active,
busybody. Every morning starts with him bouncing stiff-legged down the stairs, his ears flopping on each step. Then it’s time for a game of tug, or a ball-throwing session.  If you try to ignore him, he pops his short front legs up on your lap, drops the toy-of-the-day in it, cocks his head at you and let out an insistent Yarp! This is corgi for Hey! Play with me!
Once the game is over, he supervises getting everybody out the door to school or work, and then makes sure that the birds don’t get too comfortable on the bird feeder. After that, he rootles around in the garden, or barks at the neighbor’s dogs, flaunting his toys.
And he does flaunt his goodies.  He takes them to the back fence to show to the dogs in the yard behind us.  Once they are nicely frenzied, he tosses the bones in the air. La la lah la la!  What do I have here?  A bone!  Would you look at that?  Don’t you wish you had one?Darwin holding Kuramas leash ed 2
As everybody settles down for the evening, Darwin makes little piles of his toys, sorted by type: balls go in our room at the foot of the bed.  Bones go in my son’s room by his computer, where he can step on them when he walks around in bare feet. Prized chewy things go at the top of the stairs, where Darwin can keep tabs on the other two dogs.
He’s had a busy day.My Ball
Darwin has enemies, though. Cleaning utensils are a constant threat. He has reduced the kitchen broom to a fringe of bristles sticking out at every direction.  The vacuum sweeper is an angry menace, to be attacked on sight. The snow shovel has teeth marks on it where he has wrestled it away from us, saving us from some horrible fate.Darwin in the snow-09
Our feeling is that if Darwin has a short life span, we are going to give him every opportunity to experience the world. We take him on walks, to the dog park and on errands around town. As if trying to make up for time he won’t have, Darwin dashes toward everyone he meets, ears back and a smile on his face.  He proceeds to charm people as only a puppy can. The biggest proof of this is that the grandparents no longer ask about their grandchildren.  They want to know how Darwin is doing.Darwin in dog food bag-6_edited-1
But in the back of everybody’s mind lurks the knowledge that he won’t last.
Grasping at straws to cure Darwin, we took him to the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The canine cardiologist there listened and looked and took blood. But in the end, she shook her head.  She could adjust Darwin’s medications so that he had more energy. But she couldn’t cure him.  He might live three to five years, seven at the most, but in the end, his body will become adapted to the Viagra, and the drug won’t work any more.  And he’ll die.
The knowledge of his shortened life makes our time with Darwin more precious.  And to make sure that they aren’t left out, we pay more attention to the other two dogs than we did before, too. In fact, the constant nearness of death makes us pay more attention to everything about life.
But it’s hard to stay glum about Darwin’s future when a twenty-five-pound fur ball jumps on your chest in the morning, gently placing a ball in your sleeping hand. You’re wasting the day! he yips. Toss the ball!
My son says Darwin has given him a gift. Darwin has taught my son that “Every day may be my last day.  But every day may be my best day.”
Don’t worry about tomorrow.  Just throw the ball!  

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September 2017
Darwin lasted six years longer than anybody expected, living a full and happy life. Finally, though, his body adapted to the medication and his great heart gave out.
But Darwin had one last lesson to teach us: how to die with dignity. So on a cold grey September evening, we said good-bye to our dear friend.
Godspeed, Darwin. We hope there are balls to chase, where ever you are.Darwin on Apex-4_edited-1

What Friends Do, Puppy Play