I’ve been thinking about some of the quirkiness that goes on around here related to specific sounds.

There’s a lot. An awful lot.

I’m hoping we’re not the only one with these noise-induced quirks…

Of course, there’s the sound of the UPS truck rumbling down the street. As soon as we hear that, John and I both cringe: Here comes the barking frenzy!

There’s the slight jingling sound that happens when I take a leash off the rack, and all three come a’running to see who gets to go where. And the rustle of any plastic packaging (obviously it should be treats for them). I think those are fairly normal dog sounds.

But there are some odd ones, too.

For example, if you want to eat a hard-boiled egg in this house, you have to be crazy sneaky. As soon as you tap the edge of the egg to start peeling it, Lucas and Newt will come running from wherever they are, even from a deep sleep, to beg for a bite. Newt goes so far as to jump up and try to swat it out of your hand.

Also, when I’m doing laundry, my pattern is to take the clothes out of the dryer, dump them on the bed, then move the clothes from the washer into the dryer. Totally normal, right? But as soon–literally within five seconds–of me opening the washer to start moving the clothes, the sound of that triggers Cooper’s Cuddle Reflex. As soon as I’m back in my room to fold the clothes, he’s sound asleep in the fresh, warm pile of clean clothes. Every. Single. Time.

Cooper and the laundry

Then there’s the ice cube maker on our fridge. Anyone who presses that lever better be prepared–Emmett and Cooper want their ice! Anytime someone gets ice, those two dash over to collect a treat. So then, if it’s a guest, we have to say, “Can you please give them one?” or else they’ll follow him or her around relentlessly for as long as the glass is clinking!

A few others: Our oven drawer makes a sound when we open it that sends them into a frenzy–no clue on that one–and any can opening anywhere immediately makes them think it’s time to eat. When I slide in my keyboard tray, they all pop up (“she’s done!”) and run to my desk to see what their next activity is, and when the alarm goes off on my phone at 9:30, Emmett starts drooling for his spoonful of peanut butter (with pill jammed in).

So many things are routinized by sound around here!

How about at your house?

Dear Emmett

Dearest, most loved Emmett,

Nine years ago today, you came home.

Emmett 2006
Emmett, 2006

We knew very little about dogs, and you were the best teacher we could’ve asked for. You were so patient and tolerant with us as we tried to figure everything out. What should he eat? How should we train? How many walks does he need? We are over-thinkers in general, and it was magnified a million-fold for you, so as we researched and debated these things, you just went along with whatever. Like, we discussed where you should sleep: gated in the kitchen? on a bed in the living room? in our room? Ultimately, of course, you decided to sleep in the arm chair in our room. You actually decide most things…

As much as I love you, and I do with every scrap of my being, you are not perfect, Emmett. You do very naughty things! In fact, on Saturday night you ate half the litter box because we left the gate unlatched by accident. Not just the “goodies,” but the litter, too. Yesterday was a long day.

Over the past nine years, our biggest battle with you has been your stomach–boxes of Crayons, cupcakes we made for our neighbor’s birthday, my sister’s dogs’ bag of dog food, two loaves of zucchini bread, many unopened boxes of dog treats, compost, a Christmas wreath, two whole avocados, several sticks of butter… this list could go on, but it’s far too stressful for me!

No, you’re not perfect. In fact, you’re not that well-behaved at all! Counter-surfing aside, you pull on leash and have a habit of putting your paws on people. You jump up on tables and the receptionist’s desk at the vet’s office. You know lots and lots of cues and behaviors, but you actively choose when to listen and when to do what you want. You are the definition of stubborn.

Your strength, the thing that makes you so uniquely you, is that nothing rattles you. Nothing. You can go anywhere, do anything, meet anyone, and you’re just your happy, confident self. Your whole life has been about assuming the very best about everyone and every single situation. Everyone is assumed a friend, and every place has the potential for fun.

It’s awe-inspiring, really, considering you’ve been through quite a lot. This is your second bout with cancer, and between this and the nerve-sheath tumor years ago, you’ve been poked and prodded and blood tested and examined by a dozen vets… and you love them all! Even the ones who stick needles in you! We have a hard time getting an accurate weight on you because you won’t stop wagging your tail on the scale in the lobby!

Last year, Emmett, when I was writing you your Gotcha Day letter, we had just hit the three-month mark after receiving a prognosis of only three to six months left with you. I truly thought it was the last letter I’d write to you. And now it’s a year later.

As I said, the definition of stubborn.

Thank goodness.

Every time I take you up to the oncologist, they look at your ultrasounds and x-rays, they say that you still have the splotches on your liver and spleen, and then they sort of just shrug their shoulders. They say to keep you on the chemo, keep doing blood checks, and bring you back in three months. So, that’s what we do. That’s what we’ve been doing for over a year now. And you don’t mind. Heck, you think Purdue is just another place to have a big old Emmett Party. Because they’re all your friends, obviously!

As I write this, you are where you always are: dozing in your bed next to my desk. Many people have said over the years, especially when you were still working, that you’re my sidekick, but you and I know it’s the other way around. You’re the star of this show, Emmett. You’re my best friend, my inspiration, my light.

Happy ninth Gotcha Day, my sweet boy.

I love you, Emmett.

Your sidekick.

Chemo round… more?

Yesterday Lucas was due for his fourth and hopefully final dose of chemo.

As you can probably guess, it didn’t happen.

He had a blood test on Tuesday, and both his platelets and his white counts were too low to administer the chemo. I’m thrilled it saved us the drive to and from Purdue–and all of Lukey’s associated stress–but I was really ready to put this behind me. They want him to get his chemo this week, though, to keep him active in the study, so we’re off to Purdue today because his oncology resident was *pretty* confident that his levels would be okay by today. Probably. So, a 2.5-hour drive each way to see. Please cross your fingers. (I actually wrote this in advance… by the time you’re reading this, we’re already on our way. His appointment is at 9. I’ll let you know…)

I am so. ready. for this to be over.

Our local vet recently suggested that, because they had to lower his dose after the first treatment, we may have to do a fifth treatment. We won’t know for sure until later. As of now, what we understand the next steps include: a repeat of all the radiographs in three weeks to check for metastasis, then repeats of all the rads every three months, plus he’s going to stay on the oral that’s part of the trial, basically, forever. It’s the same one that Emmett’s on, actually, and he’s made it longer than anyone could’ve possibly anticipated or predicted. Maybe it’s not the drug. Who knows. But, I’ll take my chances and keep them both on it!

As for Lucas… well, he’s been doing pretty darn great. I’m so forever grateful that Jackie warned us that the chemo effects can be cumulative because he sure has been tired this time around. Normally when we do walks, we take the dogs one at a time. By the time whoever is third in line gets a turn, that dog is clamoring–whining, crying, pacing, dancing–and if it’s Lucas, it’s amplified times a million! In fact, he’s usually standing at the door waiting, wagging, waiting, whining. Yesterday, he pretty much slept through Emmett’s and Cooper’s walks and didn’t ask for a turn when he was up. We skipped his walk. A clear sign that he wasn’t feeling well.

Lucas has been sleeping a lot more lately. Cumulative effects of chemo?

But, later that night, after he ate his dinner like normal, he tore around the yard, leaped over the fence around the wildflowers, and started to dig them up.

The question I keep getting from well-meaning folks centers around his quality of life. I will tell you this: He may be tired, but his spirit is intact. When he does get out for a walk, he takes lots of breaks. In between those breaks? He runs. After dinner last night, he and Cooper went bonkers running around the living room, knocking into furniture, and scaring the daylights out of poor Newt, who took to the mantle. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, if I had tolerated chemo even half as well as he is, I would’ve had a MUCH better year!

We’ll see how today goes.

These Purdue days are killer: Leave the house no later than 6:30. We see the oncology tech at 9. He goes back with her and gets a blood draw. The blood is sent to the lab. He waits (boo.) there until the results come back. Once the results come back, if they’re no good, I take him home (again, cross your fingers, pretty please). If they are good, then he stays until he gets his infusion, then hangs out for a bit to see how he’s doing. Typically, he’s done after 3:30, though it varies. Then 2.5 hours home. Our average Purdue day is 6:30 to 6:30. If this could be the last? Whooo, boy. Lucas and I would both be pretty darn thrilled.

I’ll let you know how it goes! (Probably not here… it’s very hard to post from my phone… probably on Facebook… I’m really sorry for the inconvenience.) In the meantime, thanks for all the well-wishes and the kind comments and emails. You have no idea just how grateful I am for every positive message on these intense days!! Thank you!

The cost of pet ownership: Should animal adoption be restricted by income?

It’s been a while since I climbed onto my soapbox, so lemme dust this thing off and climb on up here…

In 2013, I wrote a post asking should pet adoptions be free, and the discussion on the blog and on Facebook included varied opinions, but it seemed that the general consensus opposed my opinion that, yes, pet adoptions should sometimes be free.

Then, a year later, I wrote a post asking what should I feed my dog, and the discussion was largely in agreement that you just have to do the best you can do, anywhere on the spectrum of grocery store brands of kibble to a whole foods, organic, raw diet.

I find those opinions fascinating, and stick with me here, pretty please, because I’m going to circle around to that.

The cost of pet ownership

Over the weekend I volunteered for a mobile, low-cost vaccination clinic in our area. The idea is to take the mobile clinic to “resource deserts,” areas where pet owners can’t access veterinary care (if you rely on the city bus to get to and from work, you certainly can’t take your dog to and from the vet on the city bus) and to provide affordable basics. Anyone on government assistance qualifies for discounted services. This is basic stuff; we’re not talking blood chemistry or urinalysis, but rabies shots and nail trims. The 16-year-old cat in the pic above was getting her nails trimmed, her rabies shot, and the owner had some concerns about fleas that the vet discussed with her and provided some recommendations.

These are services that we–and by “we” I suppose I mean animal lovers–deem worthy. We understand the value of providing low-cost services to animals who need to be up-to-date on rabies. We attend fundraisers and donate our time to these services. But if anyone asks the question–“Should animal adopting be restricted by income?”–we recoil. That flies in the face of the American dream where anyone from any background can supposedly do and achieve anything, pet ownership not excluded. And yet…

And yet we judge.

It goes back to what Christie Keith over at Dogged said years ago: “There is almost always at least a hint of judgment that poor people will be bad pet owners in a myriad of other ways, too.” Like in the discussion about free adoptions, there was a resounding cry that people who can’t afford an adoption fee can’t afford to take care of their pet. Who defines the “take care of” standard? Is attending a low-cost clinic in your impoverished neighborhood to get the rabies shot not taking care of your pet? Yet, oddly, we’ve gotten into the cultural habit of sharing Buzzfeed photo roundups of how much the homeless love their animals, and we praise and cry over that, but we somehow judge the people in between socioeconomic strata.

Over the years, John and I have volunteered for similar clinics wherever we’ve lived, and we’ve seen the tremendous range of wealth disparity and pet ownership. I’d argue, too, that the range of love and dedication to pets has a wide gap that is completely unrestricted by income. There are lots of disadvantaged folks who love their pets and do every single thing they can for them (see: those Buzzfeed posts about the homeless and their pets), and there are lots of advantaged folks with dogs languishing, bored behind privacy fences.

So, how do you measure the cost of pet ownership? If you can’t afford or are unable to get your dog to the vet, does that mean you don’t deserve a dog? Does that mean that dog is better off stuck in the shelter waiting for a more affluent owner than with the person who doesn’t have transportation to affordable services?

I don’t think there’s one right or one wrong answer here, and I fully acknowledge that, yep, my heart bleeds. But I also think this is one pet-savvy, animal-loving, brilliant community, so I think the discussion is absolutely worth having–and if anyone can come up with some solid thoughts and ideas, I firmly believe it’s you guys. I’d love to know what your thoughts are on this cost of pet ownership issue.

Also, I’d strongly encourage everyone to spend an afternoon volunteering at a low-cost clinic. Most areas having something–check with your community shelter. It’s an eye-opening, humbling experience to see the depth of love that everyone at every socioeconomic level has for their pets.

I hate my dog’s allergies but not as much as I hate his ear infections.

Among the things I dread most with Cooper is this: an ear infection.

And, here we are.

Cooper and his ear infections

We haven’t been to the vet yet, but I’m nearly 100% certain he has an ear infection. He started shaking his head and pawing at his ears a couple days ago. I looked, and his left ear was pretty gunky. It’s a Whole Big Thing to clean Cooper’s ears. He flips out.

Over the past couple days, we’ve been doing treats + headlock + cotton ball soaked in solution. He tucks his tail and shakes and attempts to run and hide from us. He yelps. He flails. It’s torture. For him and for us. In fact, last night took it to a whole new level and actually snapped his teeth, which broke my heart.

But, we battled him to clean his ears with the wild hope that it was just dirt, that it would clear up. But, two days of fighting, and it almost instantly refills. It’s an infection. I know it must be insanely painful for him to have these infections. I know it must be scary for a him, high-strung nervous dog, to deal with this ear situation. He doesn’t understand what’s happening. He just knows it hurts. But there is literally no way around it.

If history is any indication, we’re on the cusp of his serious seasonal allergy attack. Along with the ears, yesterday I noted he’s started licking his feet, a sure sign of impending allergic doom, and his eyes have been little faucets. I want to get him on this supposed miracle allergy drug called Apoquel, but they under-produced the pill and have put clinics on a waitlist. As of last fall, we were first in line for it if our clinic got any in, so when he sees the vet, we’re going to make sure we’re still queued up for that. I have a lot of hope for that drug, to be honest, because it’s pretty much the only/last option for him, even though I don’t think it would affect his ear situation.

Incidentally, this is the first time our new vet here will have to deal with Cooper and his ears… the last two times were in Louisiana, and before that, we had a different vet in Indiana. I’m going to give him his anti-anxiety supplement before we go in the hopes that it’ll take some of the edge off. No joke, last time he had to have his ear swabbed, it took four people. Four. To swab his ear.

So, I have that to look forward to.

Depending on how his vet visit goes, I may or may not have fingers to type any longer so this may be my last post-HA!

Anyway, super, super sorry for the gripe fest! I know many of you deal with similar issues–allergies, fears, health stress, etc.–so here’s hoping your summer season is off to a better start than Cooper’s!